Editor's note

What’s being billed as the Great American Eclipse is almost upon us. Its path of totality will pass from Oregon to South Carolina on Monday. And even if you’re not right in the line of the total solar eclipse, much of the rest of the country will experience a partial eclipse.

As the anticipation builds, read up on some of The Conversation’s eclipse coverage. From a meteorologist prepping to collect two and a half minutes of totality data, to descriptions of how past cultures interpreted eclipses and what they thought they could foretell, our academic authors are providing stories you may not see elsewhere. We have your oddball questions answered, tips from an astronomer on how to watch, even stories about Ben Franklin’s almanacs and eclipse hunting expeditions through the centuries.

Then you’ll be ready to strap on your eclipse glasses and gaze skyward.

Maggie Villiger

Senior Editor, Science + Technology

Eclipse 2017

Hiscox and students practice for the big day with a weather balloon. Joshua Burrack

Scientist at work: Why this meteorologist is eager for an eclipse

April Hiscox, University of South Carolina

Meteorology researchers across the country are prepping experiments for the mini-night the eclipse will bring on August 21 – two minutes and 36 seconds without the sun in the middle of the day.

NASA’s projection of the August 21 solar eclipse. NASA

When the sun goes dark: 5 questions answered about the solar eclipse

Shannon Schmoll, Michigan State University

An astronomer explains how and why – and when – eclipses happen, what we can learn from them, and what they would look like if you were standing on the moon.

A 1765 painting of Helios, the personification of the sun in Greek mythology. Wikimedia Commons

How ancient cultures explained eclipses

Roger Culver, Colorado State University

The sun was worshiped as a deity in many cultures – and witnessing it get extinguished could be a particularly terrifying event.

A solar eclipse observed over Grand Canyon National Park in May 2012. Grand Canyon National Park

How eclipses were regarded as omens in the ancient world

Gonzalo Rubio, Pennsylvania State University

More than 2,000 years ago, the Babylonians understood the cycle of eclipses. They also regarded them as signs that could foretell the death of a king.

Franklin’s lifelong quest was spreading scientific knowledge to regular people. Mason Chamberlin

Eclipsing the occult in early America: Benjamin Franklin and his almanacs

Carla J. Mulford, Pennsylvania State University

Franklin advanced a scientific – not supernatural – understanding of astronomical events such as eclipses. His satirical character 'Poor Richard' mocked those who bought into astrological predictions.

Have telescopes, will travel: English astronomers await an 1871 eclipse in India. The Illustrated London News, 1872

Total eclipse, partial failure: Scientific expeditions don't always go as planned

Barbara Ryden, The Ohio State University

For centuries, scientists have known when and where eclipses will be visible. They pack their bags, head for the line of totality and hope for the best – which doesn't always happen.

A total solar eclipse will be visible across parts of the United States Aug. 21, treating amateur and professional astronomers alike to sights similar to this NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory ultraviolet image of the moon eclipsing the sun on Jan. 31, 2014. (NASA)

How to safely watch an eclipse: Advice from an astronomer

Bryan Gaensler, University of Toronto

If you've ever wondered why you can look at a solar eclipse and why it can harm your eyes, the answer is in the sun's rays.