The Best Place?Really, anyplace you can see the total solar eclipse is the best place. All along the central path of totality, if the Sun is clearly visible you are in for a treat. That said, a lot of places want you to think they are the "best place". So don't be fooled into thinking you need to be at some specific location otherwise you miss the best view and so on.
Contrary to that thinking is that the best place selection in advance is a good idea. Are you going for the best climate conditions (indicates possible weather success) or the longest duration of totality? Are you going for ease of access, a crazy party, circus show, or some other criteria. Advanced planning is good, but don't get obsessed with any given location is the venue is sold out or difficult to reach.
Any place you can see totality is the best place.
Central most line or near the edge?The selection of near the central most part of the path (longest duration of totality) or near the edge is a personal taste matter although some use it as a way to double check lunar topology along the rim and validate other computations. If you study the maps at GreatAmericanEclipse you will see that maximum totality duration spreads out for a large area centered in Kentucky.
What is interesting to note is that one experiences more interesting diamond rings near the edges (or about 1/3rd of the way from the edge to the central most part of the path). By more interesting I mean that there may be longer beads/rings as the solar disk skirts the lunar rim. For an idea of what I am speaking about please visit the following web page by solar eclipse Xavier Jubier.
Planning the dayBecause of the numbers expected, it is a good idea to plan your eclipse day accordingly. For example if you are staying at a location outside the path of totality the night before you will want to consider departure time, food options, destination and expected timing to arrive. Be flexible of course, the weather could be your enemy.
Are you bringing a large amount of camera equipment or people with you? If so, the planning is even more important. My favorite method is to simply set up in the parking lot or outdoor common area of the hotel or resort where we are staying. That way I can be up for sunrise to see the weather conditions and fret along with all the other chasers until totality finally reaches our location. I guess that is why the term chasers always seemed odd to me. We don't really chase as much as we wait. We might sometimes "chase" (dash seems better) to get to clear sky and again, wait.
So here is a basic list of things to consider.
- Comfort facilities.
- Comfort items (umbrella, food/snacks, beverages, ...)
- Shaded area.
- Optics (Binoculars, Camera, Tripod, Zoom lens, Telescope) - optional.
- Vehicular access and parking.
- Crowds, wildlife (human and otherwise), safety, entertainment.
There are others issues to consider, but these are the primary to get your started.
How many will be there?Who can really predict at this time other than hotels. In some places hotels near the central most part of the eclipse path are sold out. That condition is spreading outward however it is important to note that these regions are not highly populated thus having limited hotel space availabilities. There are still plenty of hotel rooms available in highly populated areas that fall under the path.
I know of several parties and gatherings where thousands are expected to show up, including a sports stadium. Will that be a great place to see an eclipse for you? With tens of thousands of seats, don't plan on any form of telescopes or optics. That said, you can get amazing images with camera-phones and small zoom cameras. The technology is absolutely incredible.
Or would you prefer a private location, camping under the stars cowboy style? Unless you have made some arrangements already or know someone, you might find that difficult to arrange.
If history is any guide the 2009 Total Solar Eclipse in China was well known in advance and passed over several populated areas. Throngs went to different viewing venues. The weather was not at all cooperative across large areas of the path, however it is estimated hundreds of thousands were able to see something.
Don't miss it! Plan now if you have not already!