Scott Roby, director of SUNY Oswego's planetarium and an associate professor of physics, gave SUNY Oswego News some details and tips on the eclipse coming on Monday, Aug. 21.

"A solar eclipse is when the moon passes directly in front of the sun. So you've got the sun in the sky, then by coincidence the moon happens to be about the same apparent size. The sun's actually 400 times further away which makes it 400 times bigger, but they appear the same. And so the moon slowly crosses the sun, it's a perfect fit so it only lasts for about two minutes."

While Central New York will get only a partial eclipse the result can still be spectacular.

"Now there is the partial eclipse phase from beginning when it first starts eclipsing to the end over here, that takes two hours. The full eclipse, including the partial eclipse, is two hours long and the total eclipse is very short, two minutes in the middle. Since the sun's bigger than the moon, the shadow of darkness, the umbra shadow is very small, it shrinks to the earth."

That means there's only a narrow path that can view the total eclipse, and that viewers need to take precautions to watch it safely.

"It's only less than 100 miles across on the face of the earth. So you have to be in the path of totality to see the total eclipse. If you're in that path, that narrow path, you can actually look at the sun safely during total eclipse. But not, and not the beginning, not at the end, and not before because even 1% of the sunlight can harm your eyes. But during total eclipse, sunlight's down to one 1000th what it would normally be and can you see that little halo in the sky."

For people in Oswego -- where some kind of eclipse protection would be needed to directly view the sun during the partial eclipse -- a pretty sizable viewing window exists on Aug. 21.

"The partial eclipse will last from 1:30 to 3:30 on Monday here in Oswego. So you only get eclipses a few times a decade. And since two thirds of the earth's surface is covered with water, most of those eclipses fall not on land, but on water."

Roby and his colleagues will travel to the total eclipse expanse and view the phenomena from three different time zones -- carefully, of course -- trying to find locations with the least cloud cover for optimal viewing.

Related video: How to safely watch an eclipse