It's a Total Eclipse of the ... Sun!

It's a Total Eclipse of the ... Sun!
January 12, 2017

For the first time in 40 years, a total solar eclipse will fall over a portion of the United States Monday, Aug. 21. In the middle of the day, the aptly named “Great American Eclipse” will turn daylight to darkness as the moon passes between Earth and the Sun, creating an eerie scene that will have citizens everywhere turning their gaze toward the sky.

While the 70-mile-wide path of totality – or a complete eclipse – cuts in a line across the United States from Lincoln City, Oregon, to Charleston, South Carolina, the majority of the country will experience a partial solar eclipse. Below, you can click to see an interactive tool that will tell you how long the solar eclipse will last and what it will look like where you are.

So, why is a total solar eclipse the gold standard of Earth-moon-sun phenomena? It’s the only time that humans can see the elusive outer atmosphere of the Sun: the corona. This not only makes for a stellar view for millions of people, but it also enables scientists to collect visual data from Earth and compare it with what we’re observing from the Sun in space.
We’re all viewing the upcoming solar eclipse from Earth, but did you know there are several Lockheed Martin-built instruments observing the sun from space right now? Here are a few out of our Advanced Technology Center in Palo Alto.


Solar Ultraviolet Imager (SUVI), the Lockheed Martin-built instrument that sits atop Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite – R (GOES-R) series of spacecraft, also built by our team. The instrument will deliver spectacular solar images and valuable space weather data faster than its predecessor, AIA. It will be declared operational later this year.  


AIA is short for Atmospheric Imaging Assembly, and this instrument of ours is hosted on NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory. It’s given scientists important data on the sun’s magnetic storms, which ultimately affects the operability of near-Earth satellites.


IRIS is the Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph, built by Lockheed Martin and is currently orbiting Earth, observing the sun. Data from this instrument has helped scientists better understand how energy flows from the sun into its atmosphere.


Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC), takes high-resolution photos of our planet from its observation position on NASA’s Deep Space Climate Observatory one million miles away. While it doesn’t look directly at the sun, it does measure ultraviolet radiation affecting Earth.

Based on where you’re located, the solar eclipse will happen at a unique time, last for a different amount of time and the sun will be obscured to a different degree. Luckily, this interactive map from Vox makes it easy: just put in your zip code, and it tells you all you need to know!  

There are safety tips you need to follow when viewing an eclipse – after all, you’re looking directly at the Sun, even if it’s partially obscured. Some tips for viewing the eclipse safely:

  • The only safe way to view a solar eclipse is to ensure you have proper, eclipse-approved eye-ware that meets the ISO 12312-2 international safety standards. Ordinary sunglasses are not safe for eclipse viewing! Be wary of imposter glasses.
  • Always inspect your eclipse glasses or handheld solar filter before use. Do not use the product if it is damaged.
  • Cover your eyes with the eclipse glasses or filter before looking at the sun. Remove them from your eyes after you are no longer looking at the Sun.
  • If you have eyeglasses, put on your eclipse glasses on over your regular glasses.
  • Do not look directly at the eclipse through an unfiltered camera, lens or other optical device.