The Great American Eclipse: An Interview with Ginger Zee, ABC News Chief Meteorologist
“So that’s it - the last solar eclipse to be seen on this continent in this century. And, as I said, not until August 21, 2017 will another eclipse be visible from North America. That’s 38 years from now. May the shadow of the moon fall on a world in peace. ABC News, of course, will bring you a complete report on that next eclipse 38 years from now.” - ABC News Anchor Frank Reynolds signing off February 26, 1979.
Those were ABC News anchor, Frank Reynolds’s, prophetic words… and now, 38 years later, here comes the solar eclipse.
Help us understand this phenomenon! If you were explaining this to a 3rd grader, how would you describe it?
The total solar eclipse is a simple concept because it works like any other shadow. You know when you see your shadow on the sidewalk and you are blocking the sunlight from that area? Well, the moon will be blocking the sun and casting a huge shadow over part of the earth on August 21st. The sun is way bigger than the moon (400 times it's size), but because it is way farther away (400 times farther), the moon will appear to block out the whole sun for a few minutes depending on where you are within the path of totality.
What is the Path of Totality? It sounds like something straight out of a science fiction series…
The Path of Totality is an arc that, this time, passes across the entire United States from Oregon to South Carolina. It's up to 70 miles wide (but it’s not perfectly spherical), and within that ribbon, you will see a total solar eclipse (versus a partial).
Is it true we won’t need a telescope to experience this?
Yes it's true, you will not! And those who experienced total solar eclipses often say the regular eye provides a spectacular show, with the moon covering the sun and the beautiful corona. That said, you absolutely need the safety glasses recommended by NASA to view the eclipse safely. You can buy a pair here.
What advice do you have for best-and-safest-viewing practices?
All you will need are the NASA-approved safety glasses -- then you'll be ready to take part in history!
Nature will take heed…! We have heard breezes might dissipate, birds might stop chirping, temperatures could drop 15 degrees. Tell us, what else may happen?
From what I've heard and what I can attribute to my scientific experience, you may get a sense of great joy and overwhelming feelings. Much like the feeling I get when I have been storm-chasing and see a violent tornado plucking trees from the ground from a few hundred yards away. As long as it isn't hurting anyone, I stare in awe and amazement. A great sense of humility washes over me to see the power of nature.
How excited are you to be able to be a part of this historic event?
Consider how rare and special it is that our planet, moon and sun happen to be at just the right place, at just the right time — and we get to witness it. It won’t be like this forever, just for this moment, as the moon is constantly moving away from us. It really takes my breath away, just thinking about it.
Thank you, Ginger! We cannot wait to experience this amazing event…. and we will be sure to tune in to ‘The Great American Eclipse,’ on Monday, August 21 (1:00 - 3:00 pm ET) on ABC, ABCNEWS.com, Facebook Live, YouTube and across ABC News’ Social Media Channels.