Why the solar eclipse is starting in the west - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Why the solar eclipse is starting in the west

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WASHINGTON - We are now just six days away from the first total solar eclipse to be seen from the continental U.S. since 1979, but there's been one puzzling thing viewers have been asking us about.

Why is the eclipse starting here on the west coast?

We've gotten that question from viewers because it goes against everything we know about the sun; it rises in the east and sets in the west.

But for the solar eclipse, the phenomenon has to do with the moon more than the sun. Believe it or not - the moon itself actually orbits the Earth from west to east. And since a solar eclipse only happens because the moon is directly between the sun and the Earth, we're seeing the eclipse from the shadow of the moon...not the sun.

Scientists say during a solar eclipse, the path of the moon's shadow must follow the motion of the moon itself. This produces what is known as the diamond ring just before totality.

"That's actually where the light from the sun is shining through the valleys on the edge of the moon," said Dr. Alex Young with NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

If you live anywhere between Ellensburg down to the Tri-Cities and into Pendleton, Oregon, you'll get anywhere from a 95 to 98 percent totality. 

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