Solar eclipse
A partial solar eclipse will be visible in the United States and CanadaReuters

A partial solar eclipse will be visible over the majority of the United States, as the moon will obscure a section of the sun and cast a shadow on our planet.

The event will take place in the afternoon of Thursday 23 October.

According to Space.com's Geoff Gaherty, the moon's shadow will begin passing across Earth at approximately 3:38pm EDT. The time of maximum eclipse is 5:45pm EDT and it will end when the moon's shadow departs at 7:52pm EDT.

The partial solar eclipse will be visible throughout North America except for Hawaii and New England.

"Observers in the Central time zone have the best view because the eclipse is in its maximum phase at sunset. They will see a fiery crescent sinking below the horizon, dimmed to human visibility by low-hanging clouds and mist," Nasa's Fred Espenak said in a statement.

The US space agency has also issued a visibility map, which pinpoints exactly where the eclipse can be seen. Nasa has provided local viewing times in North America and Mexico and Canada.

Depending on location, skywatchers will have varying degrees of visibility. Those in central and western areas of the US and Canada will have a better views.

Viewers in the Midwest, the Rockies and California will have a much better chance to view the event as visibility will increase the further west and north you go.

However, those in northern New England will not see the eclipse as the sun will set as the event begins. In areas of New York state, only a small portion of the sun will be eclipsed as it sets.

In Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal, the eclipse will start around 5:40 pm ET. The sun will set during the eclipse, after the moon covers about one-third of the sun, according to CBC News.

Bob Berman, an astronomer for Slooh, told AccuWeather.com: "At maximum coverage, only 81% of the sun will be covered. By and large, no matter where you are, it's going to be something when the sun is low in the sky in the West during late afternoon."

Weather conditions may also prevent a clear view of the eclipse.

Brian Edwards, a meteorologist for AccuWeather.com, said. "Viewing conditions in the West will not be good across northern California, Washington, Oregon, Idaho and western Montana with clouds and showers moving through that region. There will be good viewing conditions across the Southwest and the Four Corners region."

The safest way to view the eclipse is by using solar filters, as ordinary sunglasses do not have enough protection.

Solar eclipses occur when the moon passes directly between the earth and the sun during its orbit. As our natural satellite changes its distance from us, the moon can be too far away to block out the sun completely – so a partial eclipse takes place.

For those unable to view the event, the Slooh Community Telescope will be providing a live stream.