On August 21, a lucky strip of the United States will fall under the shadow of a solar eclipse that will go from the West Coast all the way to the East Coast. An eclipse like this hasn’t happened in almost 100 years, and NASA released an amazingly detailed visual that shows exactly where the shadow will pass — and we mean exactly.
The animation was created by NASA visualization artist Ernie Wright, who explains in the video that he used a lot of NASA tools and datasets to put the whole thing together, including detailed moon topography obtained by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, exact Earth measurements from the SRTM topography project, and JPL ephemeris, a positioning model for the Earth and Moon.
What makes Wright’s visualization so impressive, is that if you look closely, you’ll see that the shadow isn’t just a sphere passing over the States.
“Around the edge of the moon, we have these sort of peaks and valleys, and the peak can block the sun a little bit earlier than you thought, and a valley can let the sun in a few seconds longer than you thought,” Wright says.
“The combined effects of these combined peaks and valleys is to create a shape that’s not really an oval,” he continues, “It’s more like a polygon.”
Wright then mapped out this shape, taking into account how Earth’s own peaks and valleys would react to the shadow.
There’s plenty of time to make plans to be under the eclipse’s path (NASA has a countdown clock), but it will begin in Oregon and travel through the middle of the country before hitting the Atlantic over Charleston, South Carolina. Some of the major cities in it’s path (or just on the outskirts) include Kansas City, Nashville, and St. Louis.
Watch below — and remember to get some special glasses before you go staring up at that thing in August.