What are your odds of seeing a total eclipse ...

… if you don’t try to?

Obviously if you know about eclipses in advance you can travel to see one. But say you just go about your normal business. What are the odds that at some point in your life you’ll look up and see the sun totally blocked by the moon?

Well, they recur (Wikipedia) at any given location once every 350-400 years or so.

You’ll have to travel a bit from Los Angeles, but a Total Solar Eclipse will cross much of the US on August 21 2017. The following states will see it: Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Northeastern Kansas, Missouri, southern Illinois, southwestern Indiana, Western Kentucky, Tennessee, Southwestern North Carolina, Northeastern Georgia, and South Carolina.

The good news is that the location is in the US, the bad news is that its going to last less than 2 minutes in most locations. The maximum duration for any Total Solar Eclipse on this planet is around 7 minutes. The one I saw on the Big Island in 1991 was over 6 minutes.

If you can make it over to the Middle East on August 2, 2027, you get to see one that lasts over 6 minutes.

Make your plans now!

Where were you on the Big Island? I was somewhere north of Kona, and visibility enabled me to see only a few minutes of totality. Many others weren’t so lucky.

I was down in the Kau area where its suppose to be clear and dry almost all the time.

The morning of the eclipse though, it was actually drizzling. We were so fortunate that only minutes before the start of totality, the clouds around the sun cleared and we were able to see the entire eclipse.

What a show!

There will be one in the US in 2024 that long.

I’ve already done it. I was born in Charleston, SC and witnessed the total solar eclipse of March 7, 1970 from my back yard.

If you can get yourself down to Durango, Mexico, on April 8th, 2024, the total solar eclipse will last about 4 minutes 30 seconds, but by the time it reaches the US, (the states of Texas, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, New York, and Vermont), the totality time will be in the 3 minute plus range.

Still very much worth the trip!

While not immediately obvious from the article, the 360-410 year estimate it’s quoting derives from two back of the envelope calculations. A discussion of both by Owen Gingerich back in 1981 prompted Jean Meeus and Charles Kluepfel to independently look at the matter statistically. Their conclusion was that total eclipses occur on average every 375 years at a given location, while annular ones are every 224 years.
There are slight latitude effects, most notably that it’s currently more likely to see a total eclipse is the northern hemisphere: at 40[sup]o[/sup] N, the average is 333 years, but it’s only 427 years at 40[sup]o[/sup] S. This is because the Earth is furthest from the Sun (which makes any particular eclipse more likely to be total) during the northern summers when there are more hours of sunlight to see it in. There’s currently a corresponding surplus of annular eclipses in the southern hemisphere.

There’s a full discussion in chapter 27 of Gingerich’s collection The Great Copernicus Chase (CUP, 1992).

I technically “witnessed” that one too but we were in Valdosta GA and it was fully clouded over and raining and I didn’t get to see a goddamn thing except the sky going darker then lightening back up again. Felt very cheated, having waited for the damn thing for two and a half years. Serious suckitude for an 11 year old astronomy nerd.

Yeah, I lucked out. The clouds rolled in at my location about an hour after totality ended.

By a cosmic (heh) coincidence, the 2017 eclipse will be total in Charleston, also. Although I live in Atlanta now, I’m seriously thinking of going back to the old homestead to witness this one.

If forecasts are bad, my alternate plan is to travel to a place on the path of totality that has a good forecast 24 hours in advance.

I’ve been reading up on the 2017 eclipse and while my city will not be quite in the path of totality I’ll only have to go north to the Kansas/Nebraska border to experience totality.

I am desperately hoping the weather will be clear.

Saw that same one.

Something wrong with the timing: I’ve seen at least 2, one in Nebraska, one in Ohio. Maybe not total?

Nebraska and Ohio? When was this? A total solar eclipse produces full darkness in the middle of the day. Someone once said, if you’re not sure whether you’ve seen a total eclipse, then you haven’t.


Other people have done the work in answers above, but because no one seems to have actually directly answered the question, I just wanted to say your odds are roughly 1 in 5.

Do I win the thread?

DC-8 in 1961, August - September as I recall, the middle of the Gulf of Mexico at 33,000 feet. Going from Merida, Mexico to New Orleans.

Was pretty long but no real idea of the actual time.

Sure was a nice clear view.

Ah, I forgot about that one. I didn’t get to look at the sun at all, my mother wouldn’t let me anywhere near a window. But I knew it got pretty dark out for a little while.

Yu might want to go east to Pulleys Mill, IL ( southeast of St. Louis). This is where you want to be if you hope to witness the longest eclipse (about 2.5 minutes).

Here’s the link to NASA’s Eclipse website … if you dig around you can get data for the time period 2000 BC to 3000 AD.