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JAMA Patient Page
September 19, 2017

Safely Viewing Solar Eclipses

JAMA. 2017;318(11):1080. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.9495

A solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the earth and the sun, totally or partly obscuring the image of the sun.

A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon’s apparent diameter is larger than the sun’s, blocking all direct sunlight. Total solar eclipses occur in narrow paths across the earth’s surface, while a partial solar eclipse can cover regions thousands of miles wide.

A total solar eclipse will be seen in North America on Monday, August 21, 2017; for this eclipse, the longest duration is 2 minutes, 41.6 seconds, and it will be the first total solar eclipse visible across the continental United States from coast to coast in the last 99 years.