Cue Bonnie Tyler and ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’, which just might be the song of the summer if you’re headed to the States. For the first time since 1918, a total eclipse will stretch across the continental US on 21 August this year. That means the moon will completely cover the sun, causing up to three minutes of absolute darkness in each place along the eclipse’s ‘path of totality’, as the astronomers call it.
Now there are eclipses and then there are total eclipses, which are basically the unicorns of celestial events. If you happened to be in Cornwall on 11 August 1999 you may have caught 90 seconds of a total eclipse, or ‘the greatest show off earth’, as the Guardian put it. However, the UK won’t see another one of those until 2090 – that’s a long time to wait to sing ‘Forever’s gonna start tonight…’
But does anyone actually travel for a total eclipse? Just ask Carly Simon, who (and here’s another musical mention) included the lyrics ‘Then you flew your Learjet up to Nova Scotia/To see the total eclipse of the sun’ in her hit ‘You’re So Vain’. The song was released in 1972, yes, the same year parts of Canada enjoyed their own dose of totality.
So, if you’d like to see the solar spectacular for yourself (like Simon’s vain subject, David Geffen… or was it Warren Beatty? Mick Jagger?), we’d recommend heading to one of two destinations that will get an eyeful in August: Jackson Hole, Wyoming or Charleston, South Carolina.
In Jackson Hole, stay at Amangani, a hotel at the foot of the Tetons where you can watch the eclipse pass around 11:30am and then float in a pool that’s cut into a sandstone terrace as you contemplate the galaxy. In Charleston, revel in the city’s unabashed eclipse enthusiasm – they’ve even launched a Go Dark Charleston website with activities for the big day, including a harbour cruise with a BBQ buffet and live blues music. As for where to stay, there’s The Dewberry, a downtown hotel decked in mid-century modern decor (toast all things lunar with martinis at the Living Room bar), or Zero George Street, an inn made up of three restored buildings. Borrow their complimentary bikes and look skyward around 2:30pm, when the eclipse hits South Carolina.
As for what to read on your trip, Carl Sagan’s universally (pun intended) acclaimed tome Cosmos is an obvious choice. But we also think music journalist Rob Sheffield’s memoir Turn Around Bright Eyes is appropriate, if, like us, you can’t get that Bonnie Tyler tune out of your head.
Featured image is Jackson Hole, Wyoming