How does a total eclipse occur, and will it be a total eclipse in NCWV?

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BRIDGEPORT, W. Va. (WDTV) - A total solar eclipse is coming to the United States on Monday, August 21st! However, this will only be a partial eclipse here in north-central West Virginia. Only certain locations will get the full show early next week.

A total solar eclipse is when the moon completely covers the sun during the day. This has very specific conditions that need to be met. The most important is that the moon has to get directly between the Earth and the sun. By 'directly' we mean that the moon is intersecting the plane of the Earth's orbit around the sun. That is the area that is swept out by the Earth as it travels around the sun in a one year period.

Even when this occurs, it is not always a total eclipse. When this occurs but the moon is smaller in the sky, it doesn't completely cover the sun. It leaves a ring shaped outline of the outer sun. This is called an 'annular eclipse'. This subject will be talked about in the days to come.

The moon appears bigger in the sky at times and smaller at others. This is because the moon orbits the Earth in an 'elliptical' pattern. This can be thought of as an elongated circle. Longer at the ends and shorter at the sides. This means the moon is closer at times and farther away from the Earth at others.

When the moon gets between us and the sun and is closer to the Earth, the sun gets completely covered and we get a total eclipse. With the condition that it is also intersecting the plane of the Earth going around the sun.

While this is a total eclipse, that will only be realized on a strip of land across the country. Roughly from Oregon toward Nebraska, into Tennessee, and leaving the country through South Carolina. This path of totality is only 70 miles wide.

We will be close in NCWV but not close enough for a total eclipse. About 82% to 85% of the sun will get covered at the height of the eclipse. The process will begin around 1:10pm Monday and reach its peak around 2:35pm. The moon will clear the sun in NCWV around 3:57pm.

As of this writing (Tuesday evening) the forecast calls for mostly sunny skies. This could change. Check for the latest forecast.