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7 things to know about the rare total solar eclipse crossing the nation this August

The nation is gearing up for the first total solar eclipse to cross the country coast to coast in nearly 100 years.

This August, the sun, the moon and planet Earth will all align as space junkies revel in the celestial spectacle that has everyone talking.

>> Read more trending news

Due to its rarity, astronomers are calling the 2017 phenomenon the Great American Eclipse.

Here are seven things to know about the big summer event:

When is it?

The Great American Eclipse will cross the U.S. on Aug. 21, and will begin in Oregon at 10:15 a.m. local time (so, 1:15 p.m. EST). The eclipse’s path of totality will cut a 60-mile-wide arc across the country and end in South Carolina about an hour and a half later.

» RELATED: Photos of the 'Supermoon' eclipse around the world

Most accurate map of the eclipse’s path of totality to date

NASA data visualizer Ernie Wright published the most accurate map to date of the Great American Eclipse’s path of totality using data from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, elevation data on Earth and information on the sun’s angles.

Whether or not you’re inside the path of totality will determine what you see in the sky. If you’re outside the path, you’ll likely see a partial (not total) eclipse.

To determine the most accurate eclipse path, according to Wright, you have to figure out where the moon’s shadow will fall on the Earth’s surface, which requires taking into account the elevation differences on both the moon and Earth’s surfaces, he told Space.com.

Using elevation data from NASA’s Shuttle Radar Topography Mission, the locations of the Earth, moon and sun at each line of latitude or longitude and how long it takes sunlight to travel to the moon and down to Earth, Wright was able to compute where exactly the eclipse will cross and for how long.

How to find out what the eclipse will look like from where you live

Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, teamed up with Google to create a simulator that shows you what the sky will look like wherever you are.

All you have to do is type in your hometown or zip code and the simulator will tell you how much of the sun will be blocked by the moon, how the sun will travel across the sky over a three-hour period on Aug. 21 and what time to watch.

» RELATED: New color-changing #EclipseStamps honor 2017 total solar eclipse, magically transform into moon

“There are lots of online animations of the 2017 eclipse, but you can’t use them like ours to get a sense of the full experience, including your surroundings. Our simulation is closer to what one might experience in a planetarium show,” the UC Berkeley scientists said.

The tool could also help people figure out where to get the best “total solar eclipse experience,” the scientists said.

This simulator is part of the Eclipse Megamovie Project, a Google-Berkeley collaboration aimed at collecting and stitching together thousands of photos of the Aug. 21 eclipse taken by volunteer photographers around the country.

Find out what the sky will look like in your city.

Where are the best places to see the 2017 eclipse?

The August eclipse will be incredibly accessible to anyone within a 200-mile drive of its path of totality, but the most important factor in getting a good view is weather.

But if you’re hoping to make a trip out of the big event, Greatamericaneclipse.com has a list of 10 great places to see the phenomenon based on the best weather odds for clear skies:

Madras, OregonTotality begins at 10:19 a.m. PDT and lasts 2 minutes, 4 seconds.

Snake River Valley, IdahoTotality begins at 11:33 a.m. MDT and lasts 2 minutes, 18 seconds.

Casper, WyomingTotality begins at 11:42 a.m. MDT and lasts 2 minutes, 4 seconds.

Sandhills of western NebraskaTotality begins at 11:49 a.m. MDT and lasts 2 minutes, 30 seconds.

St. Joseph, MissouriTotality begins at 1:06 p.m. CDT and lasts 2 minutes, 39 seconds.

Carbondale, IllinoisTotality begins at 1:20 p.m. CDT and lasts 2 minutes, 41.6 seconds.

Hopkinsville, KentuckyTotality begins at 1:24 p.m. CDT and lasts 2 minutes, 41.2 seconds.

Nashville, TennesseeTotality begins at 1:27 p.m. CDT and lasts 1 minute, 57 seconds.

Great Smoky Mountains National ParkTotality begins at 2:35 p.m. EST and lasts 1 minute, 17 seconds.

Columbia, South CarolinaTotality begins at 2:43 p.m. EST and lasts 2 minutes, 30 seconds.

Plan on traveling within or from Georgia? Head to Rabun County, about two hours north of metro Atlanta, where the eclipse will begin at 2:35 p.m. and last 2 minutes and 40 seconds.

» RELATED: Georgia state park named one of world’s top stargazing spots 

The area is also holding an array of events to commemorate the phenomenon.

Other accessible road trips from Georgia include the Great Smoky Mountains; Columbia, South Carolina and Nashville, Tennessee.

If you plan on seeing the spectacle in person,  Space.com has helpful safety tips.

More about how Georgians can catch the event.

How to watch the eclipse live (from your couch)

Even if you don’t plan on traveling or making your way outdoors for the great eclipse, NASA will be hosting an Eclipse Megacast across multiple programming venues, including NASA TV, YouTube, UStream and more. Local and national television stations will likely pick the Megacast up as well.

» RELATED: The best views of the total eclipse 

When was the last time there was a total solar eclipse visible from the United States?

The total solar eclipse of July 11, 1991 in Hawaii was the last to touch U.S soil, but the Feb. 26, 1979 eclipse — 38 years ago — was the last visible within the continental United States.

How long until the next total solar eclipse to touch the continental United States?

The next North American total solar eclipse will be on April 8, 2024, and will begin in Mexico, make its way through Texas to Maine and eventually end in Canada.

» RELATED: 9 best places to see the stars —the real ones —around Atlanta

Whataburger makes a 10-year-old’s birthday wish come true

A 10-year-old boy recently got his biggest birthday wish when a Whataburger restaurant in San Antonio, agreed to host a party for him. 

Harry, the son of “She's Crafty Podcast” host Catherine Contreas, only wanted two things for his first year of double digits: A trip to San Antonio Bricks and Mini Figs for some Legos, and a birthday party at his favorite Whataburger.

“I remember in the 80’s sitting at a long table at McDonald's with a million kids with birthday hats...I think I've seen some parties at Chick-Fil-A...but, Whataburger? I'm almost positive I've never seen that,” Contreas wrote in a post on her “She’s Crafty” website. 

>> Read more trending news

Contreas was hoping the Whataburger party would work out because Harry has high-functioning autism, and she knew how important his birthday would be to him.

“If you have kids, you know how important birthdays are. If you have kids with autism, you know how important every moment is,” Contreas wrote.

“Now, if you know anything about a kid like Harry, you know that life is very black and white. ‘It's my birthday. You said, on my birthday, I get to choose my party. I want to have my party at Whataburger.’ And that was it. In his mind, that's what was going to happen. And if it didn't happen, he wouldn't throw a fit, he wouldn't make our lives miserable...but, he wouldn't understand. Because in his black and white world, things go according to plan. What you say matters. Wouldn't it be nice if everyone lived by those rules? Because, even though Harry is unfiltered and blunt, at least he says what he means and does what he says.” 

>> Need something to lift your spirits? Read more uplifting news

Contreas got to work on reaching out to Whataburger through social media. All she wanted was a small space just large enough to sit with Harry and sing “Happy Birthday” to him.

Whataburger obliged and then some.

“They decorated for him, they got him a cake....they sang Happy Birthday to him,” Contreas wrote. “They made sure every moment of Harry's birthday was magically orange and fun. They gave him the birthday he was picturing inside of his amazing little mind.”

Touched by the work the employees put in, Contreas shared her thanks in her post.

“Feeling special and celebrated for a day, is the best gift he could ever be given,” Contreas wrote in the post.

Photos of Harry and his Whataburger celebration can be seen on the “She’s Crafty Podcast” blog.

Ticketmaster may owe you free tickets: Here’s how to get them

Ticketmaster has released a list of free concerts for anyone who bought tickets on their website from Oct. 21, 1999 through Feb. 27, 2013. 

>> Read more trending news

As part of the Schlesinger v. Ticketmaster class action settlement, Ticketmaster is giving away tickets to “class members.” 

Concert goers can see if they are eligible by logging into the Ticketmaster website and click on the tab on left side of the screen that says, “Active Vouchers.” 

From that screen, at the top, another link will go to “Redeem Ticket Vouchers.” From there, customers can view eligible events and discounts that can be applied to ticket purchases. 

Customers will need the voucher codes from the earlier screen to plug in when it’s time to check out.

There are nearly 200 eligible events in selected cities on the website, including Dallas; Cleveland; Charlotte, North Carolina; Miami; Tampa, Florida; and West Palm Beach, Florida.

Ticketmaster has a list of frequently asked questions on its website.

Video: Stolen semi crushes cars, flees scene

WSOC-TV obtained video from a hit-and-run victim that showed his car being crushed by man accused stealing a tractor-trailer and taking a joy ride through three North Carolina counties.

>> Read more trending news

Robert Stowe said he saw the big rig coming toward him while on the I-485 on ramp from Arrowwood Road. He moved over and even pulled off of the road, but the tractor-trailer still hit his car.

Police said the driver, Terry Keesley, stole the big rig Tuesday morning from a Lowell gas station.

Stowe said at one point he thought it was going to crush the driver’s side of the car with him still at the wheel.

“My nerves were shot,” Stowe said. “This was an ordeal. This was not just a fender bender. Literally at the time I thought I was going to be pulled under the 18-wheeler.”

Stowe showed WSOC-TV how the big rig crashed into the driver’s side of his car and ripped into the door.

“He slammed into me and continued to do this on the side,” Stowe said. “It’s pulling the car forward and I’m just hearing the glass and everything start popping, so I just reached across the seat and dove out on the opposite side.”

The truck stalled and in the video viewers can see Keesley revving the truck up and ignoring the cries from Stowe and another driver to stop.

The driver of a blue SUV followed the big rig and called 911.

Police found the stolen tractor-trailer and Keesley in Tega Cay.

Robert Stowe has serious damage to the frame of his car. He said the company that owns the tractor-trailer has insurance and it should pay to replace his car. 

Invasive toads in South Florida could kill pets

An invasive toad species are in high population in South Florida now that the rainy season is here, which means pets could come into contact with them. 

>> Read more trending news 

The Cane toad, also called giant or Bufo toads, secrete a milky-white toxin on their skin that can get dogs and cats sick if they bite or eat them.

» Tips to keep your dog cool in the summer

These toads are mostly found in yards near canals and ponds and have a reddish-brown to grayish-brown color with a yellow belly, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. 

The toads can grow from 6 to 9 inches long and breed year-long in standing water, streams, canals and ditches.

» Woman abandons 3-month-old puppy at airport, leaves tragic note

The Cane toad first made its mark in South Florida in the 1930s to help get rid of agricultural pests, but their population became fully established when pet traders let them loose in the 1950s, according to the FWC. Its native range is the Amazon basin in South America, north to the lower Rio Grande Valley in southern Texas.  

» Potentially deadly parasite found in 5 Florida counties

Veterinarians said if a dog licks a Cane toad, it can get seizures, have heart problems or even die, WTVJ reported. If a pet owner believes their dog or cat has come into contact with a toad, they should wash their pet’s mouth out immediately and call a veterinarian. 

Read more at NBCMiami.com.

10-year-old Florida boy dead after mysterious encounter with fentanyl

Alton Banks went to the community swimming pool like so many other children in Miami’s Overtown neighborhood on a warm day in late June, but unlike the other kids, the 10-year-old collapsed and died later that night at home from a mysterious encounter with the deadly drug fentanyl.

Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said on Tuesday that investigators believe the boy came into contact with a mixture of heroin and fentanyl on June 23, but they’re not sure where. Rundle said it didn’t happen at his home.

“We believe it was somewhere between the park and the pool, the sidewalk. Maybe he touched something,” she said at a news conference.

“It could be as simple as touching it, a towel at the pool, perhaps, somebody else’s towel. We just don’t know.”

The Overtown neighborhood where the boy lived has been hit particularly hard by the opioid crisis, with nearly 300 people dying from fentanyl or fentanyl-mixture overdoses last year than homicides, according to the Miami Herald.

Florida authoritities are asking for the public’s help in this case

“We’re anxiously hoping that someone comes forward to help us solve this horrific death,” Rundle said in a Facebook post on Monday. 

Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Just a drop of it can cause death,law enforcement officials said.

Banks is believed to be the youngest opioid victim in Florida.

Case against spanking: Study finds it leads to mental illness

Think spanking will make your child behave?

In fact, a new study discovered that children who receive spankings are more likely to be anti-social, aggressive and suffer from mental health and cognitive difficulties.

>> Read more trending news 

The study by the University of Texas and the University of Michigan finds the more a child gets spanked -- defined by an open hand on the backside -- the more likely they were to defy their parents. Their study, published in the Journal of Family Psychology, analyzed five decades of spanking research representing around 160,000 children, according to the news site Mic.com, a website geared toward millennials.

“Our analysis focuses on what most Americans would recognize as spanking and not on potentially abusive behaviors,” says Elizabeth Gershoff, an associate professor of human development and family sciences at The University of Texas at Austin.

“We found that spanking was associated with unintended detrimental outcomes and was not associated with more immediate or long-term compliance, which are parents’ intended outcomes when they discipline their children.”.

“We as a society think of spanking and physical abuse as distinct behaviors,” Gershoff said. “Yet our research shows that spanking is linked with the same negative child outcomes as abuse, just to a slightly lesser degree.”

Spanking of children is still a popular mode of discipline in households. A 2013 poll found that 81 percent of Americans “say parents spanking their children is sometimes appropriate,” according to NBC News.

“We hope that our study can help educate parents about the potential harms of spanking and prompt them to try positive and non-punitive forms of discipline,” Gershoff said.

To read the whole Mic.com story, click here.

Frontier Airlines to add 21 cities, 85 routes

Low-cost airline Frontier Airlines will add 21 destinations and 85 routes to its lineup, the company announced Tuesday. 

>> Read more trending news 

The airline plans to grow to a total of 82 cities total with more than 1,000 routes by next summer, according to a news release. That’s more than double the current number of total routes offered by the airline.

>> Related: Pilot 'congratulates' passengers for drinking all alcohol on plane

The airline also plans to add more planes to its fleet, growing from 63 to 76 jets by the end of 2018, according to USA Today

“Customers will benefit not only from the broad new selection of nonstop routes, but our growing network will provide more than 1,000 new connecting route options,” Frontier CEO Barry Biffle said in a statement. “By taking advantage of our natural share of connecting passengers, we can offer our low fares to even more of America.”

>> Related: American Airlines to decrease legroom for passengers

To celebrate the announcement, the airline is offering limited-time one-way fares as low as $39.

Among the 21 cities that the airline will service, 18 are destinations the carrier previously serviced. 

>> Related: Low-cost airline considers replacing seats with standing space

Buffalo, New York; Charleston, South Carolina; and Pensacola, Florida, are the new cities added to the airline’s route map. The 18 cities it will restore service to include the following: 

  • Albuquerque, New Mexico
  • Boise, Idaho
  • Calgary, Alberta, Canada
  • El Paso, Texas
  • Fargo, North Dakota 
  • Fresno, California
  • Grand Rapids, Michigan
  • Jackson Hole, Wyoming
  • Jacksonville, Florida
  • Little Rock, Arkansas
  • Louisville, Kentucky
  • Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
  • Ontario, California
  • Palm Springs, California
  • Reno, Nevada
  • San Jose, California
  • Spokane, Washington
  • Tulsa, Oklahoma

At least 20 new destinations are being added to Frontier’s Denver flight schedule, “suggesting that it's looking to funnel more connecting passengers through the airport,” USA Today reported. Frontier Airlines’ largest hub is in Denver.

>> Related: Baby born on flight gets free plane tickets for life

It’s unclear when exactly the airline will begin offering many of the new routes between cities. Frontier said it planned to add all newly announced routes by Spring 2018 but did not provide specific dates. 

Read more at Frontier

Man kills 820-pound wild hog found in his front yard

A south Alabama man sprang into action last week, when he found his dog barking at an 820-pound wild hog in his front yard, shooting and killing the large animal, according to multiple reports.

>> Read more trending news

Wade Seagos, a deer hunter who also operates a taxidermy shop, told AL.com that it’s not unusual for wildlife to wander onto the 100 acres he shares with his family in Samson. He said he wasn’t alarmed on July 11 when he heard his pet schnauzer barking outside his family’s home.

He realized something about the situation was wrong when he heard his daughter scream, AL.com reported.

When he looked to the front of his home, he found his dog barking, just feet away from a massive wild hog.

Afraid the animal would attack the family pet, Seago grabbed a .38 caliber pistol and fired three shots at it, killing the hog, AL.com reported.

"I didn't think twice about taking down this hog," he told the news site. "I'd do it again tomorrow."

The day after the encounter, Seago weighed the hog on a commercial scale, according to WKRG. The hog weighed in at 820 pounds.

Seago said on social media that he plans to mount the hog in his taxidermy shop.

According to the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, feral hogs can pose a serious danger to native wildlife through of a combination of their high rates of reproduction, lack of natural predators, voracious eating habits and destructive rooting behavior, among other things.

Feral hogs are considered game animals in the state, meaning they have no closed season and no bag limits.

“This means that on private land, hunters can legally hunt hogs every day of the year with no harvest restrictions,” according to officials. “Alabama sportsmen and land managers are encouraged to help control this non-native species.”

Lin-Manuel Miranda will go ‘Under the Sea,’ team up for live-action ‘The Little Mermaid’

He’s already made his name on Broadway, and it seems that Lin-Manuel Miranda is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to the Disney front too, Entertainment Weekly reported.

Miranda is going nonstop, no telling how far he’ll go, already co-starring in the sequel of “Mary Poppins.” He took his shot and wrote the ear-worm soundtrack that breathed live into “Moana.”

Now, the “Hamilton” writer will be working on new songs for the score of the upcoming live-action version of “The Little Mermaid.”

>> Read more trending news

Miranda, who calls himself a lifelong Disney fan, will compose with Alan Menken. Miranda was first attached to the film a year ago, but no details were given when it was announced. Menken made the collaboration announcement at the recent D23 Expo, Entertainment Weekly reported.

He also performed a medley of the songs he wrote with his former creative partner Howard Ashman, who died in 1991.

Almost a year ago, Miranda took over the mouse house’s Instagram, putting his own take on many popular Disney classics. There may be a “Mermaid” song in there, and you’re welcome.

Mary Poppins: Returns” hits theaters this December.

No date has been released for “The Little Mermaid” remake.

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