Total solar eclipses occur every year or two or three, often in the middle of nowhere like the South Pacific or Antarctic. What makes Monday’s eclipse so special is that it will cut diagonally across the entire United States.

[Watch live coverage from Baton Rouge and across the U.S.]

The path of totality — where day briefly becomes night — will pass over Oregon, continuing through the heartland all the way to Charleston, South Carolina. Those on the outskirts — well into Canada, Central America and even the top of South America — will be treated to a partial eclipse.

The last time a total solar eclipse swept the whole width of the U.S. was in 1918.

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What's a total solar eclipse? 

When the moon passes between Earth and the sun, and scores a bull’s-eye by completely blotting out the sunlight, that’s a total solar eclipse. The moon casts a shadow on our planet. Dead center is where sky gazers get the full treatment. In this case, the total eclipse will last up to 2 minutes and 40-plus seconds in places. A partial eclipse will be visible along the periphery. Clouds could always spoil the view, so eclipse watchers need to be ready to split for somewhere with clear skies, if necessary.

What can you expect to see in Baton Rouge and when?

In Baton Rouge, Monday’s eclipse will begin at 11:54 a.m., reach its midway point at 1:26 p.m., and end at 2:57 p.m.

The event will peak in some areas of the United States so that the moon crosses in front of the exact middle of the sun and casts a shadow on Earth, appearing to block out the entire disk of the sun.

In Baton Rouge, the moon will appear to cover 70 percent to 80 percent of the sun during the height of the event.

Will the weather have an impact on viewing?

The National Weather Service is expecting the weather should not inhibit south Louisianan's eclipse experiences.

"I would think most of the area will probably be rain free at the time," said forecaster Robert Ricks, in the National Weather Service's Slidell office. "We're thinking it's probably going to hold off until after the eclipse."

Ricks said the weather for Monday is looking similar to Sunday, with more sun in the sky early, and clouds and rain developing later in the afternoon. When the eclipse begins, he said the loss of solar heat will help hold off cloud formation, and will bring the temperature down two or three degrees.

"The trends that you would normally see around 7 or 8 o'clock in the evening, that's what you can expect during the eclipse," Ricks said. The chance of rain for Monday before noon was 11 percent as of Sunday afternoon, Ricks said, which is a good sign for eclipse viewers.

Do I need to take any special precautions for my eyes?

What can happen when you look directly at the sun? You're essentially cooking your retina, the delicate, light-sensitive tissue deep inside the eyeball. Solar radiation can kill those cells. Hours can pass before you realize the extent of the damage.

It's known in the trade as solar blindness or solar retinopathy — not total blindness, rather more like age-related macular degeneration, where you have trouble reading or recognizing faces, or lose those abilities altogether.

Seconds are enough for retinal sunburn. And unlike with the skin, you can't feel it. The damage can be temporary or permanent.

In areas outside the path of totality, where there's only a partial eclipse, experts say it's never safe to view the eclipse without protection, either a pair of special eclipse glasses or other certified filters. 

Don't use eclipse glasses with filters that are crumpled, scratched or torn. If you can see any light besides the sun, it's time for new solar specs. Also beware if the eclipse glasses are older than 2015, when international safety standards were adopted.

Eclipse glasses can be worn directly over your prescription glasses or with contacts. As for binoculars, telescopes and cameras, high-quality solar filters are essential and must be mounted at the front end.

If you haven't snagged a pair of eclipse glasses, you can look indirectly with a pinhole projector — homemade will do, crafted from a shoebox, or grab a kitchen colander — that casts images of the eclipsed sun onto a screen at least 3 feet away.

What about my pets? 

The Louisiana SPCA says there's little evidence a solar eclipse will be dangerous for pets, since they normally don't stare at the sun. Still, the organizations says cat and dog owners may want to keep their pets inside to be safe. 

“From our secondary research, there is little evidence to say if a solar eclipse will or will not be dangerous for pets to view,” Louisiana SPCA Community Clinic Director, Jessica Lovelady said. “While some authorities suggest putting a pair of solar glasses on your pet during an eclipse we anticipate that most pets will not be very happy with this option.”

Can I watch the total eclipse online or on TV? 

If you can't witness the total solar eclipse in person, you can still see it online or via TV.

— NASA will offer hours of coverage online and on NASA Television beginning at 11 a.m. It plans livestreaming of the eclipse beginning at noon with images from satellites, research aircraft, high-altitude balloons and specially modified telescopes.

— CNN coverage will include reporting from Oregon, Missouri, Tennessee and South Carolina. In partnership with Volvo, CNN also plans two hours of livestreaming, 360-degree coverage accessible in virtual reality through Oculus headsets beginning at noon.

— The PBS science series NOVA is planning a quick turnaround with an hourlong eclipse documentary at 8 p.m.

— The Science Channel will broadcast its live coverage from Madras, Oregon, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., with commentary from educators and astronomers from the Lowell Observatory.

— David Muir will anchor ABC's two hours of live coverage, with correspondents reporting from viewing parties across the country. NBC also plans live coverage, with Lester Holt hosting special reports at noon and 1 p.m. featuring correspondents reporting from Oregon, Illinois, Wyoming and South Carolina. Shepard Smith will break into typical broadcasting on Fox News Channel from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. to update viewers on the eclipse.

— The Weather Channel is kicking off its live coverage at 5 a.m. and continuing throughout the day with dispatches from seven locations.

When will the next total solar eclipse happen in the U.S.? 

If you miss Monday’s eclipse — or get bitten by the eclipse bug — you’ll have to wait seven years to see another one in the continental U.S. The very next total solar eclipse will be in 2019, but you’ll have to be below the equator for a glimpse. We’re talking the South Pacific, and Chile and Argentina. It’s pretty much the same in 2020. For the U.S., the next total solar eclipse will occur on April 8, 2024. The line of totality will cross from Texas, up through the Midwest, almost directly over Indianapolis, Cleveland and Buffalo, New York, up over New England and out over Maine and New Brunswick, Canada.