What are the odds of seeing a total solar eclipse in your area? Solar Eclipses happen on average around every 18 months somewhere in the world. But to be in the umbra, or the moon’s shadow, at just the right place and time, either you’ll have to be incredibly lucky, you’ll have to travel, or wait an average of 360 years for it to occur again in your area!
Perhaps one of the most privileged and most viewed solar eclipses of human existence was the Millennial Eclipse of August 19th, 1999, almost exactly 18 years before the upcoming Great American Eclipse. How was it so widely viewed? The eclipse happened where many people were already at the right place at the right time!
The Millennial Eclipse was truly one for the record books, with totality having swept across multiple nations. The eclipse path started in the Atlantic Ocean and traveled to the UK, through Northern France, Germany, continued through the Middle East, and then India as the final nation to witness the shadow of the eclipse. Because those nations are populated so heavily, as many as 350 million folks were estimated to have viewed totality for this eclipse. Although a smaller number is more likely due to weather conditions having been poor.
How lucky are we to see the Great American Eclipse? Though there have been total solar eclipses in parts of the United States within the last 30 years, they have not been very widespread. In fact, the last eclipse to transverse the entirety of the United States was just shy of 100 years ago in 1918, so you can bet we’re pretty lucky! If you have the chance, make plans to travel to the nearest location in the path of totality. This is a seriously unique opportunity for residents of the United States and with enough publicity, it may even break the record for the most widely viewed eclipse in history.