Gem Over the Prairie

by Dan Glomski, senior educator at Aurora’s Edgerton Explorit Center.

On Monday, August 21, 2017, the path of a total solar eclipse visits the continental United States for the first time in nearly four decades. Grand Island, located squarely within the path of the Moon’s shadow, is a prime eclipse-viewing location.

A total solar eclipse ranks among the most spectacular events a person can witness in a lifetime. The Moon passes directly in front of the Sun, covering the solar disk. Day briefly turns into night – twilight, actually – before the Moon’s motion around Earth begins to unveil the Sun, allowing direct sunlight to bathe the landscape once again.

Most people have seen nothing like this before. It’s an incredibly dramatic, eerie event that can literally make the hair on the back of your neck stand up.
The eclipse path – approximately 70 miles wide – crosses the country from Oregon to South Carolina. This is the first time the Moon’s shadow has traversed the United States. coast-to-coast since 1918. Millions of Americans are located either inside the path or within a day’s drive, and with thousands of visitors coming from outside the United States. this is likely to be the most-viewed total solar eclipse in history.

Grand Island is an enticing location for eclipse viewers. The Moon completely covers the Sun for 2 minutes and 35 seconds, within six seconds of the event’s maximum duration (in southern Illinois and western Kentucky). The city is easily accessible by road or air, and climate data favors viewers: cloud-cover statistics suggest the region has a 70% chance of clear skies for viewing the eclipse. And, should clouds threaten to spoil the show, eclipse chasers can use Interstate 80 and other roads to find sunny skies.

With the thousands of visitors likely to visit the region, plans call for educational activities and other events to be held during the weekend prior to the eclipse. “With an event as rare and spectacular as this, we’re going to do everything we can to showcase central Nebraska,” said Brad Mellema, Grand Island Convention and Visitors Bureau director.

Eclipse viewing will be held at the Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer, on the south edge of Grand Island and very close to the eclipse centerline. Stuhr Museum offers a lot of wide-open space and lots of parking.

Stuhr Museum is a tailor-made eclipse-viewing spot.

“Stuhr Museum is a tailor-made eclipse-viewing spot,” said Mellema.

The next total solar eclipse visible from the United States occurs in 2024. Another total solar eclipse will not be seen from Grand Island until 2744.

“Take that Monday off and get a hotel room as soon as you can – if any are still left,” Mellema said. An informational statewide eclipse website has been set up at NEclipse17.com.


Grand Island averages 225 sunny days a year according to the National Climatic Data Center. The odds of clear viewing from Grand Island are approximately 70-75%. Many people will believe they've seen a total eclipse before, or that a deep partial eclipse is close enough. However, the most spectacular eclipse phenomena (corona, surrounding twilight, etc) happens only during a total eclipse. The difference between a total eclipse and a partial eclipse is night and day – literally!

How Rare are total solar eclipses?

  • Last total solar eclipse in Grand Island 22 April 1194
  • Next total solar eclipse in Grand Island 31 July 2744
  • Last total solar eclipse in Nebraska 30 June 1954
  • Next total solar eclipse in Nebraska 3 May 2106
  • Last total solar eclipse in continental U.S. 26 February 1979
  • Next total solar eclipse in continental U.S. 8 April 2024
  • Next total solar eclipse visible anywhere on Earth 2 July 2019 (South Pacific, Argentina)
  • Average period of time between total solar eclipses in one spot 380 years
  • Average period of time between total solar eclipses on Earth ~1.3 years (67 in the 21st century)

Related Links


Grand Island, 21 Aug 2017 (CDT)
11:34:20am, Partial eclipse begins
12:58:34pm, Total eclipse begins
1:01:09pm, Total eclipse ends
2:26:36pm, Partial eclipse ends

Totality: 2 minutes, 34 seconds