Everything you need to know about the great American eclipse of 2017

Americans from coast to coast will have the opportunity to see one of the most spectacular celestial sights on the face of the Earth this summer when a total solar eclipse sweeps across the United States for the first time in decades.

The total solar eclipse occurs when the moon, sun and Earth are perfectly aligned to allow the moon to cast a shadow on the Earth's surface. This year, that tiny shadow will pass across a long and thin path of U.S. soil stretching from Oregon to South Carolina on August 21, 2017.

Residents in all states will have the opportunity to see at least a partial eclipse, but only those in certain parts of a handful of states will be able to see "totality" -- the perfect moment in which the sun's light is fully blocked, allowing star gazers to stare directly at the moon and see an almost heavenly halo.

Those lucky enough to have seen a solar eclipse boast about how amazing it can be, describing the moment of totality as both eerie and magical. The temperature will drop briefly and the skies will darken, allowing other stars to become visible while the sun's rays shoot out of the sides of the pure black ball in the sky.

The lucky states where totality will be visible include Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia -- and tiny parts of two others. Anyone outside of these areas will need to pick up some protective eyewear in advance in order to be able to stare up at the sun and see the "bite" the moon takes out of it during the eclipse.

Click through to see the specific areas where the total eclipse will be visible:

16 PHOTOS
States where you can see the total solar eclipse of 2017
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States where you can see the total solar eclipse of 2017

Salem's the first sizable U.S. city with a chance to catch the eclipse when it hits Oregon.

Source: NASA

The eclipse will hit residents in Idaho next, with an opportunity to see totality in Idaho Falls. In Boise? Drive north a bit for your chance at totality.

Source: NASA

The eclipse sweeps across most of Wyoming, with Casper perfectly placed along the center of the path -- which means the eclipse will last longer there than on the outer edges.

Source: NASA

In Montana, but don't want to leave the state to get your eclipse fix? Totality will be visible from a tiny sliver of the Southwest corner of the state, but it's probably easier to just drive all the way to Idaho or Wyoming instead.

Source: NASA

Plenty of Nebraskans will have the chance to catch totality -- as the moon's shadow passes from the northwest corner of the state to the southeast corner.

Source: NASA

Like Montana, the total eclipse path will scrape across the tiniest portion of Iowa, but again, your best bet will likely be to travel into a state to your south or west instead. 

Source: NASA

You can catch the total eclipse from Kansas too if you head up to the northeast corner.

Source: NASA

Folks in Kansas City will get to see the total eclipse in Missouri, along with those in Columbia as it heads southeast across the state. St. Louis residents might need to drive a bit to see the total show.

Source: NASA

Residents of southern Illinois will get a total eclipse treat too, but anyone north of Belleville will need to drive to catch the big sight.

Source: NASA

Most folks in southwest Kentucky will get a chance to see the moon's shadow too.

Source: NASA

The eclipse will sweep across a big swath of Tennessee next, hitting Nashville and sweeping between Knoxville and Chattanooga.

Source: NASA

The northeast corner of Georgia is in the eclipse's path too. 

Source: NASA

Only a handful of North Carolinians will be able to see the total eclipse from their homes, as it hits a tiny portion of the southwest corner of the state.

Source: NASA

Source: NASA

Check out the entire eclipse's path!

Source: NASA

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The last time a total eclipse was visible on U.S. soil was on February 26, 1979, when a shadow passed across Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Wyoming and up into Canada.

Prior to that, a total eclipse was visible along the East Coast in 1970.

It's been nearly a century since a total solar eclipse was visible across such a significant swatch of the country. On June 8, 1918, and a similar eclipse swept across the country from Washington State to Florida.

But you won't have to wait decades to see another one if you can't make the one this August. The next eclipse in the U.S. will stretch from Texas to Ohio on April 8, 2024.

And for those willing to travel outside the country, the opportunities to see an eclipse come more frequently. If you can't make this year's, you can catch the next one in 2019 in Chile and Argentina.

RELATED: Check out the last total solar eclipse of 2016 that hit Asia

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Solar eclipse 2016
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Solar eclipse 2016
A total solar eclipse is seen from the city of Ternate in Indonesia's Maluku Islands on March 9, 2016. A total solar eclipse swept across the vast Indonesian archipelago on March 9, witnessed by tens of thousands of sky gazers and marked by parties, Muslim prayers and tribal rituals. / AFP / BAY ISMOYO (Photo credit should read BAY ISMOYO/AFP/Getty Images)
A total solar eclipse is seen from the city of Ternate in Indonesia's Maluku Islands on March 9, 2016. A total solar eclipse swept across the vast Indonesian archipelago on March 9, witnessed by tens of thousands of sky gazers and marked by parties, Muslim prayers and tribal rituals. / AFP / BAY ISMOYO (Photo credit should read BAY ISMOYO/AFP/Getty Images)
A total solar eclipse is seen from the city of Ternate in Indonesia's Maluku Islands on March 9, 2016. A total solar eclipse swept across the vast Indonesian archipelago on March 9, witnessed by tens of thousands of sky gazers and marked by parties, Muslim prayers and tribal rituals. / AFP / BAY ISMOYO (Photo credit should read BAY ISMOYO/AFP/Getty Images)
A total solar eclipse is seen from the city of Ternate in Indonesia's Maluku Islands on March 9, 2016. A total solar eclipse swept across the vast Indonesian archipelago on March 9, witnessed by tens of thousands of sky gazers and marked by parties, Muslim prayers and tribal rituals. / AFP / BAY ISMOYO (Photo credit should read BAY ISMOYO/AFP/Getty Images)
A general view shows a partial solar eclipse behind a star and crescent symbol atop a mosque in Kuala Lumpur on March 9, 2016. A total solar eclipse swept across the vast Indonesian archipelago on March 9, witnessed by tens of thousands of sky gazers and marked by parties, Muslim prayers and tribal rituals. Partial eclipses were also visible over other parts of Asia and Australia. / AFP / MANAN VATSYAYANA (Photo credit should read MANAN VATSYAYANA/AFP/Getty Images)
A general view shows a partial solar eclipse behind a star and crescent symbol atop a mosque in Kuala Lumpur on March 9, 2016. A total solar eclipse swept across the vast Indonesian archipelago on March 9, witnessed by tens of thousands of sky gazers and marked by parties, Muslim prayers and tribal rituals. Partial eclipses were also visible over other parts of Asia and Australia. / AFP / MANAN VATSYAYANA (Photo credit should read MANAN VATSYAYANA/AFP/Getty Images)
A Malaysian school girl wearing glasses with special filters watches the partial solar esclipse at the National Planetarium in Kuala Lumpur on March 9, 2016. A total solar eclipse swept across the vast Indonesian archipelago on March 9, witnessed by tens of thousands of sky gazers and marked by parties, Muslim prayers and tribal rituals. Partial eclipses were also visible over other parts of Asia and Australia. / AFP / MOHD RASFAN (Photo credit should read MOHD RASFAN/AFP/Getty Images)
A Malaysian school girl uses home made glasses with special filters to watch the partial solar esclipse at the National Planetarium in Kuala Lumpur on March 9, 2016. A total solar eclipse swept across the vast Indonesian archipelago on March 9, witnessed by tens of thousands of sky gazers and marked by parties, Muslim prayers and tribal rituals. Partial eclipses were also visible over other parts of Asia and Australia. / AFP / MOHD RASFAN (Photo credit should read MOHD RASFAN/AFP/Getty Images)
A total solar eclipse is pictured from the city of Ternate, in Indonesia's Maluku Islands, on March 9, 2016. A total solar eclipse swept across the vast Indonesian archipelago on March 9, witnessed by tens of thousands of sky gazers and marked by parties, Muslim prayers and tribal rituals. / AFP / BAY ISMOYO (Photo credit should read BAY ISMOYO/AFP/Getty Images)
This picture shows the moon passing in front of the sun during a partial solar eclipse in Phnom Penh on March 9, 2016. A total solar eclipse swept across the vast Indonesian archipelago on March 9, witnessed by tens of thousands of sky gazers and marked by parties, Muslim prayers and tribal rituals. Partial eclipses were also visible over other parts of Asia and Australia. / AFP / TANG CHHIN SOTHY (Photo credit should read TANG CHHIN SOTHY/AFP/Getty Images)
This picture taken through a telescope shows a partial solar esclipse at the National Planetarium in Kuala Lumpur on March 9, 2016. A total solar eclipse swept across the vast Indonesian archipelago on March 9, witnessed by tens of thousands of sky gazers and marked by parties, Muslim prayers and tribal rituals. Partial eclipses were also visible over other parts of Asia and Australia. / AFP / MOHD RASFAN (Photo credit should read MOHD RASFAN/AFP/Getty Images)
This picture shows the moon passing in front of the sun during a partial solar eclipse in Naypyidaw on March 9, 2016. A total solar eclipse swept across the vast Indonesian archipelago on March 9, witnessed by tens of thousands of sky gazers and marked by parties, Muslim prayers and tribal rituals. Partial eclipses were also visible over other parts of Asia and Australia. / AFP / YE AUNG THU (Photo credit should read YE AUNG THU/AFP/Getty Images)
Malaysian school children wearing glasses with special filters watch the partial solar esclipse at the National Planetarium in Kuala Lumpur on March 9, 2016. A total solar eclipse swept across the vast Indonesian archipelago on March 9, witnessed by tens of thousands of sky gazers and marked by parties, Muslim prayers and tribal rituals. Partial eclipses were also visible over other parts of Asia and Australia. / AFP / MOHD RASFAN (Photo credit should read MOHD RASFAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Penampakan gerhana matahari dari Limo, Depok 06.40 WIB https://t.co/VqhQCbO5Kv
The eclipse at 07.00 from Limo, Depok https://t.co/WHqNtfbjTy
The eclipse at 07.10. It's starting to get darker. https://t.co/KjMomrXvNF
07.15 https://t.co/TlbZMFPB12
Gerhana matahari dilihat dari Depok, Jawa Barat pada pukul 07.00-08.40 #GMT2016 #SolarEclipse https://t.co/53HCowtuVR
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