While an out-of-state trip will be necessary to see a total solar eclipse later this month, central Ohio residents still are in for a show. Aug. 21 marks the first full eclipse of the sun visible in the contiguous United States since 1979 -- but what people see will depend on where they are and when they look.

Here are five things to know about the celestial event.

Get on the road ...

Ohioans will need to travel if they want to see the most spectacular imagery.

Viewers in a band about 70 miles wide that arcs across the country from Oregon to South Carolina will be the only folks able to see the total eclipse. During a total eclipse, the moon blocks the sun entirely and allows observers to see the star's outer atmosphere, known as the corona.

"It looks like a halo dancing around a hole in the sky," said Tom Burns, director of Perkins Observatory in Delaware.

Burns, who last observed a total eclipse in 1991 in Mexico, said the beauty of the sight brought scientists to tears.

Burns said he plans to venture to the Sawtooth National Forest in Idaho to view the event. COSI chief scientist Paul Sutter will lead a bus trip to Nashville for the occasion.

... or stay right here

While the most sensational views will occur out of state, local stargazers still can see a partial eclipse from their backyards.

In central Ohio, the partial eclipse will last slightly more than two hours and 45 minutes; the moon will cover about 86 percent of the sun at the eclipse's peak.

The eclipse will begin at 1:04 p.m. and end at 3:52 p.m., with the maximum coverage occurring at 2:30 p.m, according to the U.S. Naval Observatory.

Sutter said central Ohio residents should not despair about not seeing the full eclipse.

"It's still going to be a pretty impressive sight," he said.

Gather together

While viewers can watch the event on their own, COSI will host programs during the eclipse at its West Broad Street home in Columbus, as well as at Columbus Metropolitan Library branches and Metro Parks throughout Franklin County.

Perkins Observatory will be closed during the eclipse.

Safety first

Sutter said anyone viewing the eclipse should take precautions to prevent seriously damaging his or her eyes.

COSI will provide special eclipse-viewing glasses at its events throughout central Ohio.

Sutter said simply slipping on a pair of shades is not enough.

"Sunglasses let too much light in for you to safely look at the eclipse," he said.

Burns said viewing glasses with instructions written by the observatory's staff can be purchased for $6 at Half Price Books stores.

Delaware County District Library cardholders also can pick up free glasses at branches while supplies last.

Don't miss it

People who miss out on this eclipse will have to wait a while to see another. The next total solar eclipse visible in the United States will occur in April 2024.