NASA prepares for rare solar eclipse

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) - On August 21, daylight will fade to the level of a moonlit night as millions of Americans experience a total solar eclipse.

For the first time since 1918, the dark shadow of the moon will sweep coast-to coast across the United States, putting 14 states in the path of totality and providing a spectacular view of a partial eclipse across all 50 states.

NASA scientist Dr. Alex Young joined us from Maryland via satellite.

NASA says the eclipse is one of the most anticipated and widely observed celestial events in history.

A solar eclipse happens when a rare alignment of the sun and moon casts a shadow on Earth. NASA knows the shape of the moon better than any other planetary body, and this data allows them to accurately predict the shape of the shadow as it falls on the face of Earth.

While everyone in the U.S. will see the eclipse if their local skies are clear, people standing in the path of totality – completely in the moon’s shadow – will see stars and planets become visible in what is normally a sunlit sky.

Young says Iowa will experience 91 percent of the sun covered during the eclipse.

Eclipses provide an opportunity for us to see the sun’s faint outer atmosphere in a way that cannot be replicated by current human-made instruments.

Scientists believe this region of the sun is the main driver for the sun’s constant outpouring of radiation, known as the solar wind, as well as powerful bursts of solar material that can be harmful to our satellites, orbiting astronauts and power grids on the ground.

Young recommends buying save solar viewing glasses to view the solar eclipse.