Houston-area residents map trip to watch total solar eclipse

- The countdown has begun for the highly anticipated total solar eclipse that will cross the American skies in less than one month, on August 21.

It's been 99 years since the United States has seen a total solar eclipse travel from coast to coast and while the peak viewing time is less than 3 minutes, thousands will be traveling to watch this 'once in a lifetime opportunity.'

Even though Houston is not in the solar eclipse's path of totality, gazers will still be able to watch about 2/3 or 67% of the sun be eclipsed by the moon. If that's not good enough for you, then consider traveling north like Marce Stayer.

"If you are directly in the path, everything goes black, the birds all roost...it's a whole different experience," says Stayer who is one of about 200 enthusiasts traveling to Casper, Wyoming to watch the total solar eclipse.

"There's a path that goes from Oregon to South Carolina," says James Wooten, a planetarium astronomer with the Museum of Natural Science in Houston. "That's the path the moon's path actually takes. You have to be in the shadow of the moon to see the total eclipse and Casper [Wyoming] is not only in the shadow, it's in the middle of where the shadow will pass."

James also says statistically that eastern Wyoming and western Nebraska have the best chances of clear weather, which is what onlookers hope will be the case.

"We'll actually do an eclipse practice on Sunday [August 20] during the same exact time so we'll know where the sun is in the sky," explains Sayer.

The sky is also an option to view the eclipse, as Southwest Airlines is getting in on the hype, offering flights that will give passengers a bird's eye view of the heavenly spectacle. The airline will give fliers special viewing glasses and offer cosmic cocktails for those celebrating the occasion.

 "This is a kind of event that everyone wants to see in their lives. In recent memories, they've all been far away from here so it's been harder for American's to get involved. But now Americans can get involved because it will be right in their own backyard," says Wooten.

Special solar eclipse activities are scheduled at the Johnson Space Center. Organizers say general admission prices will get you into the fun. Three guest speakers from NASA Johnson Space Center will be in attendance to discuss the eclipse, components of the sun, and solar weather. Attendees will also have the chance to build their very own spectroscopes and learn about the electromagnetic spectrum. In addition, a live-stream of the eclipse will be on the big screens at Space Center Houston.

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