Solar Eclipse Overview


Basics: Total Solar Eclipse over much of the continental US, August 21, 2017

The August 21 solar eclipse, will be the first total solar eclipse over the continental US since February 26, 1979.

While we won’t see a total eclipse here in the islands, a partial solar eclipse will actually be visible in the Hawaiian Islands at dawn on Monday, August 21, 2017.

A total solar eclipse is generally considered the most awe-inspiring experience in astronomy.  For the few moments when the sun’s blazing disk is completely blocked by the moon, the land grows dark, the air cools, and the brighter stars and planets emerge.

During this total phase, and ONLY then, it is possible to view a solar eclipse directly; the pale, beautiful corona of the sun, a million times dimmer than the sun itself and only visible during total solar eclipses, shines around the black disc of the moon. A total eclipse of the sun is a rare event for any given spot on earth; on average, a given location gets a total eclipse of the sun once every 360 years.


The August 21 total eclipse is being called “The Great American Eclipse,” as the path of the total eclipse will pass over the continental United States from Oregon to South Carolina. The total eclipse will be visible in parts of Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, and South Carolina before ending in the Atlantic Ocean. Cities along the path of totality include Salem, Oregon; Nashville Tennessee; and both Columbia and Charleston, South Carolina. In Salem, Oregon, to give one example, the total phase of the eclipse runs from 10:17 to 10:19 a.m. on August 21 Pacific Daylight Time (it will be there for 1 minute and 53 seconds). In Nashville, 1:27 to 1:29 p.m. Central Daylight Time; and in Charleston, the total phase runs from 2:46 to 2:49 p.m. Eastern Daylight time, for a total of 1 minute and 39 seconds of totality.

The last total solar eclipse visible in the continental United States occurred in February 1979 and the next one will not take place until April 8, 2024. (You may have also heard that this is the first total eclipse over the continental US in 1918, but that was the last time a total solar eclipse went from one end of the continental US to the other.)

Those parts of the continental US not it total path will instead have a partial eclipse during this event; as will we, in the Hawaiian Islands.

August 21 eclipse in the Hawaiian Islands

In the Hawaiian Islands, we will not see a total solar eclipse; in fact, we’ll have to wait till May 3, 2106, for a total solar eclipse over our islands!  We will, however, have a partial solar eclipse right at dawn on August 21, 2017.

This is the last partial solar eclipse we’ll see in the Hawaiian Islands for nearly seven years (April 8, 2024), which is an extraordinarily long drought for partial solar eclipses; so it’s worth going out to catch this one.

The sun will rise in Honolulu at 6:15 a.m. on the morning of Monday, August 21 in partial eclipse, with about one-third of the sun’s disk blocked by the moon.

6:15 a.m. August 21, looking northeast, Honolulu:

This is the view at 6:45 a.m. on August 21 from Honolulu, the period of maximum coverage as seen from Honolulu:

By 7:25 a.m. on August 21 in Honolulu the eclipse will be over.

Viewing advice:

  • Bishop Museum is now SOLD OUT of viewing glasses.
  • If you are not able to get the safe viewing glasses, here are instructions on how to make a pinhole viewer:…/build-a-safe-solar-pinhole-viewer…Note: improvised solar viewing techniques such as using a certain level of welder’s glass, a smoked mirror, etc. are NOT TO BE USED since they are not designed to protect the eyes from viewing the sun.
  • However, this is a good ‘do it yourself’ viewing event:
    • Make sure you have a flat eastern horizon to see the eclipse; looking over the ocean is ideal. (The sun will rise in the East Northeast)
    • Chose a location where there is a good chance of clear skies – check the forecast that morning.
    • There will not be a noticeable drop in brightness during the partial eclipse; in fact, unless you are viewing the sun via a safe filter, you would not be aware that there was anything unusual that morning with the sun.

Viewing the eclipse elsewhere in the islands (i.e. outside of Honolulu):

  • The main variable in terms of this eclipse in the Hawaiian Islands is that the sunrise time varies depending on how far east a given location is; the further east you are, the earlier your sunrise. Thus, in Hilo, for example, the sun will rise in eclipse at 6:05 a.m., ten minutes earlier than in Honolulu.
  • Except for this ‘sunrise variation,’ the timing for the eclipse is pretty much the same throughout the islands, with the sun rising already in eclipse and the event ending throughout the islands around 7:25 a.m.

Viewing the event remotely:

  • If you wanted to see the partial eclipse in Hawaii (from 6:15 a.m. till, say, 7 a.m.), you could then go and catch a live stream of the total eclipse. The total eclipse will hit the Oregon coast at 7:16 a.m. Hawaii time (10:16 a.m. Pacific Daylight time), so it would be wise to be viewing a webcast by 7:15 a.m. Hawaii-time.

Other timings:

  • The eclipse in Nashville goes total at 1:27 p.m. Central Daylight Time on August 21, which is 8:27 a.m. Hawaii Time
  • The eclipse goes total in Charleston, SC at 2:46 pm Eastern Daylight Time, which is 8:46 a.m. Hawaii Standard Time.
  • After that, the total phrase passes over the Atlantic, so the entire event web-wise will be done as the eclipse leaves Charleston at 2:47 p.m. EDT (8:47 a.m. in Hawaii).
  • A recommended live stream of the total eclipse is NASA’s:

Additional eclipse sites:

NASA has a complete site for the August 21 eclipse’s guide

The Great American site:


When was the last total solar eclipse in Hawai‘i?

  • The last total solar eclipse over the islands occurred on July 11, 1991; it was visible as a total eclipse over the Island of Hawaii and a small area of Maui, and as a deep partial eclipse elsewhere in the islands.
  • There was also a total eclipse visible in the waters off of the northwest Hawaiian Islands on March 8, 2016, but none of the islands were in a position to see that event as a total eclipse.

When was the last partial solar eclipse in Hawai‘i?

  • The last partial solar eclipse over the islands occurred on the afternoon on March 8, 2016; the same eclipse was a total eclipse in Micronesia and off the Northwest Hawaiian Islands. Bishop Museum did have a viewing event that day, where we viewed a webcast of the total eclipse from Micronesia in Atherton, and then viewed the partial eclipse on the lawn with telescopes staffed by Hawaiian Astronomical Society.

When is the next partial solar eclipse after August 2017?

  • There is a partial solar eclipse over Antarctica and the southern part of South America on February 15, 2018.

When is the next total solar eclipse after August 21, 2017?

  • After the total solar eclipse of 8/21/17, there is a nearly two-year drought of total solar eclipses worldwide; there will be four partial eclipses before the next total eclipse of the sun.
  • The next total solar eclipse occurs on July 2, 2019, and will be totally over the South Pacific, Chile, and Argentina. The total phase will pass just south of Buenos Aires.

When is the next partial solar eclipse in Hawai‘i?

  • After 8/21/17 we enter a long drought for solar eclipses in the islands; the next partial solar eclipse in the islands is not until April 8, 2024. That eclipse will be similar to the 8/21/17 eclipse: the eclipse will occur as a partial eclipse around 7 a.m. in Hawaiʻi and go onto be a total eclipse over the continental US.

When is the next total eclipse in Hawai‘i?

  • May 3, 2106; as with the last total eclipse over the islands in 1991, this one will pass over the Island of Hawai‘i.

When is the next lunar eclipse?

  • There is a partial lunar eclipse on August 7, 2017, though it’s not visible in Hawaii. We will just miss this lunar eclipse in the Hawaiian Islands. The full moon sets in Hawaii at 5:55 a.m. that morning of August 7, right as the eclipse starts. The peak of the lunar eclipse occurs at 18:20 Universal Time on August 7; this is 8:20 a.m. on August 7 Hawaii Time, though again we will not see it since the moon will have already set more than two hours earlier. In Mumbai, India, as an example, the peak of the lunar eclipse will occur around midnight local time on the evening leading from August 7 to August 8. About 20 per cent of the moon will be in the earth’s shadow at the peak, making the moon look like a cookie with a bite taken out.
  • The next total lunar eclipse occurs on January 31, 2018. This one will be visible in the early hours of January 31 (i.e. 3 a.m.) in the Hawaiian Islands.

Interested in Bishop Museum Press titles on Astronomy?

Check out Hōkūloa: The British 1874 Transit of Venus Expedition to Hawaiʻi!