Central Wisconsin will be treated to a partial solar eclipse on Monday, August 21.

A NASA statement said the eclipse will be visible across all of North America, weather permitting. The entire continent will experience a partial eclipse lasting two to three hours.

Anyone within a 70-mile-wide path that stretches through 14 states from Oregon to South Carolina will experience a total eclipse. During those brief moments — when the moon completely blocks the sun’s bright face for about two minutes — day will turn into night, making visible the otherwise hidden solar corona, the sun’s outer atmosphere.

In Wausau, the eclipse will begin at 11:50 a.m. and will be at its maximum at about 1:13 p.m., according to NASA’s interactive map. You can also view the eclipse live on NASA’s “Eclipse Live” page.

During the eclipse, the dark inner shadow of the moon will be traveling from west to east from almost 3,000 miles per hour in western Oregon to 1,500 miles per hour in South Carolina.

In case you’re wondering if this is a big deal, the answer is yes.

The last total eclipse in the United States occurred on Feb. 26, 1979. The last total eclipse that crossed the entire continent occurred on June 8, 1918. The last time a total solar eclipse occurred exclusively in the U.S. was in 1778.

Experiencing a total solar eclipse where you live happens on average about once in 375 years. About 12.2 million Americans live in the path of the total eclipse.

A total of 11 spacecraft, more than 50 NASA-funded high-altitude balloons and many citizen scientists are expected to capture a wealth of images and data that will be made available to the public before, during, and after the eclipse. Total solar eclipses offer unprecedented opportunities to study Earth under uncommon conditions, according to NASA. The sudden blocking of the sun during an eclipse reduces the sunlight energy that reaches the Earth.

Gearing up to watch? Print out NASA’s pinhole projector for safe viewing here.

How do eclipses work?

Eclipses, whether solar or lunar, occur because of the periodic alignments of the sun, Earth, and moon. These three bodies, orbit in space in very predictable paths (yes, the sun orbits too. It orbits the galaxy once every 200 million years!). Ever since the days of Kepler and Newton, we have been able to predict the motion of planetary bodies with great precision. So, why do eclipses happen?

Solar Eclipses Happen when the moon moves between Earth and the sun. You might think that this should happen every month since the moon’s orbit, depending on how it is defined is between about 27 and 29 days long. But our moon’s orbit is tilted with respect to Earth’s orbit around the sun by about five degrees. Not much, you say? Yes, but the moon, itself, is only about ½ degree in width in the sky, about ½ the width of your pinky finger held at arm’s length. So, sometimes the moon misses too high and sometimes too low to cause a solar eclipse. Only when the sun, moon, and Earth line up close to the “line of nodes”, the imaginary line that represents the intersection of the orbital planes of the moon and Earth, can you have an eclipse.

Check out this video from NASA for more:

YouTube video

Planning a viewing party? Here’s what you need to know:

How to View the Eclipse Safely