On Monday, April 8, the sky’s most dramatic event occurs as the path of a total solar eclipse sweeps across the U.S. and the 2024 eclipse begins. At such times, the Moon is directly between the Sun and Earth, and it casts its shadow on our planet.
Because the Sun is large, the Moon’s shadow has two parts. If you’re under the outer, lighter shadow — called the penumbra — you will see a partial eclipse. But that’s not the best place to see it. Ideally, your goal should be to stand beneath the Moon’s darker, inner shadow — the umbra. That’s where day will turn into night, where several planets will become visible, and where the corona — the Sun’s normally invisible outer atmosphere — will shine forth in all its glory.
The Moon’s penumbra first touches Earth at 11:42 a.m. EDT and last contacts it at 4:52 p.m. EDT. The total phase of the eclipse begins at 12:39 p.m. EDT, a bit more than 620 miles (998 km) south of the Republic of Kiribati in the Pacific Ocean. The umbra remains in contact with Earth’s surface for 3 hours, 16 minutes, and 45 seconds until 3:55 p.m. EDT when it vanishes in the North Atlantic Ocean 340 miles (547 km) southwest of Ireland.
The total length of the 2024 eclipse path is 9,190 miles (14,790 km). The magnitude of this eclipse is 1.0565, which means the Moon’s diameter is 5.65 percent larger than the Sun’s. Only when the magnitude is 1 or more will there be a total eclipse. The greatest eclipse occurs at 2:17 p.m. EDT, and the maximum length of totality anywhere on Earth is 4 minutes 28 seconds. That point is just a few miles north of the small town of Nazas, Mexico.
What Time is the 2024 Eclipse?
The time the eclipse occurs at any place varies across the U.S. We also have to take into account the change in time zones from Central to Eastern. This table shows the times for a dozen cities that will experience totality.
What Makes the 2024 Eclipse so Special?
You can’t completely prepare yourself for the sight of the Sun vanishing during the day. When the moment of totality arrives, you will experience extreme wonderment at the unspeakable beauty of the Sun’s corona and the panoply of colors and light in the suddenly darkened sky.
Seeing a total solar eclipse is like nothing you’ve seen before. When you look at the totally eclipsed Sun, you will see the blackest black where the Moon is, surrounded by the Sun’s everchanging and ethereal outer atmosphere, the corona. The quality of light at the moment when totality begins is stupendous with an amazing show of iridescence, scintillation, and delicate colors.
While the sky will not be as dark as night, as the Moon’s shadow approaches, the light will rapidly change. A few minutes before totality, it will seem like an eerie dim daylight. As totality begins, it will shift to a deep twilight. It’s like nothing you’ve seen before.
Venus, Jupiter, and the so-called ‘Devil’s Comet’ during the 2024 eclipse
What Else Can Be Seen During the Eclipse?
Unfortunately, no bright star will be within 50° of the Sun, but you will see two planets. Venus will lie 15° west-southwest of the eclipsed Sun. Sighting this planet — the third-brightest object in the sky after the Sun and the Moon — should be simple 10 minutes before totality. Because it’s not all that far from the brilliant Sun, be cautious if you look for it through binoculars. One safe way is to position yourself in the shadow of a building, vehicle, or awning with the Sun hidden just to the east. As long as your binoculars remain in the shadow, you can safely scan the sky for Venus.
Jupiter will lie on the other side of the Sun from Venus, 30° to the east-northeast. During the eclipse, Venus will blaze at magnitude –3.9, while Jupiter comes in second at magnitude –2.1. The difference means that Venus will shine 5¼ times as bright as Jupiter. Still, the king of the planets will certainly pop into view during totality (and perhaps a few minutes before).
Another sky object that possibly may be visible is Comet Pons/Brooks (the “Devil’s Comet“). Comets are notorious for not performing the way astronomers think they should, so don’t spend a lot of time searching for it. If the comet has an outburst (as it has recently), it may be visible through binoculars during totality. Concentrate your gaze 6° to the right of Jupiter. How far is 6°? The field of view when you look through 7×50 binoculars in 7°. Here’s a chart showing the comet’s position.
Amateur astronomer Dave Weixelman used SkySafari to create this simulated view looking south from southern Texas during totality on April 8. 2024. The image also shows the predicted orientation of Comet Pons-Brooks’ tail, at an angle of 68° from celestial north. (Credit: Dave Weixelman (highsierraimaging.com))
With the Moon completely covering the Sun, take a few seconds to observe another effect you can only see during totality. Around the horizon will be a view like just after sunset. In fact, observers have dubbed this effect the 360° sunset. Don’t spend too long looking at it. You’ll quickly want to return your gaze to the Sun’s magnificent corona. That’s where the real show will be.
How Do I See the 2024 Eclipse? Where Is the Best Place to See It?
In the U.S., 31.5 million people live within the path of totality. For them — if it’s clear — all they need to do is step outside, look up, and BOOM, eclipse! I wrote a guide to 20 of the best places to see the eclipse. When picking the best places to view the eclipse, I focused on the location’s population, amenities, and areas with the longest totality.
On April 8, most locations across the U.S. will experience a partial eclipse. The amount of the Sun covered by the Moon will vary depending on how close the location is to the path of totality. The minimum coverage of the Sun by the Moon will be at the northwest corner of the state of Washington. There, a 16-percent partial eclipse will occur.
NASA’s video below is a great way to visualize the 2024 eclipse:
When Will the U.S. Get Another Total Eclipse?
April’s total eclipse is the last one for quite some time. The next eclipse to touch the U.S. will happen March 30, 2033. Aside from being almost a decade away, the line of totality for that eclipse will only cross parts of Alaska. The next eclipse to sweep across the 48 States is two decades away. On August 12, 2044, parts of Montana and North Dakota will experience totality.
How Can I Safely See the 2024 Eclipse?
The safest way to view a solar eclipse is through eclipse glasses that meet the international safety standard ISO 12312-2:2015. These glasses block out harmful solar radiation and reduce the Sun’s brightness to a safe and comfortable level. Make sure your eclipse glasses are not damaged or scratched.
An important thing to remember is that you must not use any filters to view the Sun during totality. If you do, you won’t see anything. Totality is the only time it’s safe to look directly at the Sun. You can see our picks for the best equipment to see the eclipse here.
It’s also important to have filters for any equipment you’ll be using. Binoculars, telescopes, and cameras all need to have filters at their front during the partial phases of the eclipse. But, again, as with your eyes, take the filters off during totality.
If you want more information on how, when, and where to see the 2024 solar eclipse, I wrote another guide with more details on the eclipse’s path.
Is There a State-By-State Guide to See the Eclipse?
A state-by-state guide to the 2024 eclipse. Credit: timeanddate.com
Is There a Live Stream of the 2024 Eclipse?
Yes. Timeanddate.com will stream it here:
Is there a glossary for some of these eclipse terms?
Yes! Here are some of the more common terms. You can read more of them here.
angular distance — the distance between two celestial bodies expressed in degrees, minutes, and/or seconds of arc.
aphelion — the position of an object in solar orbit when it lies farthest from the Sun.
(Credit: Astronomy: Roen Kelly)
apogee — the position of the Moon or other object in Earth orbit when it lies farthest from our planet.
disk — the visible surface of any heavenly body.
first contact — during a solar eclipse, the moment that the Moon makes contact with the Sun; the beginning of the eclipse.
fourth contact — during a solar eclipse, the moment that the disk of the Moon breaks contact with the Sun; the end of the eclipse.
magnitude — the amount of the Sun’s diameter the Moon covers during an eclipse; see obscuration.
obscuration — the amount of the Sun’s area the Moon covers during an eclipse; see magnitude.
penumbra — the less dark outer region of the Moon’s shadow; an observer in the penumbra sees a partial solar eclipse.
second contact — during a total solar eclipse, the moment the Moon covers 100 percent of the Sun’s disk; the instant totality begins.
shadow bands — faint ripples of light sometimes seen on flat, light–colored surfaces just before and just after totality.
third contact — during a total solar eclipse, the instant totality ends.
umbra — the dark inner region of a shadow cast by a solar system object illuminated by the Sun.
This article was originally published on Astronomy.com and updated by Discover Staff. Read the original here.