Have you heard about the 2024 Solar Eclipse? In something of a repeat of what happened in 2017, one of the most beautiful sites in nature is coming to the United States. However, on April 8, 2024, the path of totality will be wider, and the Sun will be eclipsed for much longer. Here are some fascinating things about this total solar eclipse to help you learn more about this rare and wonderful spectacle. Don’t miss it! (Have questions? Let us know in the comments section below!)
1. This solar eclipse will be one of the most-watched live natural events in history
During the total solar eclipse on August 21, 2017, the path of totality was home to about 12 million people. This time it’s 32 million, largely in big cities like Mazatlán in Mexico, San Antonio, Austin, Fort Worth and Dallas in Texas, Indianapolis in Indiana, Cleveland in Ohio and Buffalo and Rochester in New York. All will experience totality.
2. It will be the longest totality on land since 2010 and until 2027
The point of greatest eclipse duration on April 8, 2024, will be Nazas in Durango, Mexico, where 4 minutes 28 seconds of totality will be experienced. That’s the longest on land since a 4 minutes 40 seconds totality on Rapa Nui/Easter Island on July 11, 2010. On August 2, 2027, a total solar eclipse lasting 6 minutes 23 seconds will occur close to Luxor in Egypt.
3. Over two-thirds of the path of totality is at sea
Although the path of totality will stretch across northwest Mexico, the US and maritime Canada, it will mostly occur over the ocean. Of its 9,020 miles total length, 6,645 miles will be over water and just 3,375 miles over land. Beginning in the South Pacific and ending in the North Atlantic, an eclipsed Sun will rise between Penrhyn Atoll in the Cook Islands and Kiribati’s Starbuck Island. At the other end of the path, an eclipsed Sun will set north of the Azores in the North Atlantic.
4. Venus, Jupiter and the “Devil Comet” may be visible during totality
Since it will be a particularly long totality, the sky will get noticeably dark. Even before totality occurs, the planet Venus is likely to be visible 15° west-southwest of the Sun. During totality, Jupiter will appear about 30º northwest of the Sun. Between Jupiter and the eclipse, it may just be possible to see Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks a/k/a the “Devil Comet” 25º from the Sun, though probably only through binoculars.
5. It’s the result of a remarkable coincidence
Total solar eclipses are possible only because the Moon can sometimes appear to be exactly the same size as the Sun. It’s not, of course, but sometimes being 400 times closer and 400 times smaller works out just perfectly for just blocking the Sun for us on Earth. On April 8, 2024, a perigee new Moon’s apparent diameter will be 5.5% larger than average. The opposite can be the case. When the Moon’s apparent diameter is smaller an apogee new Moon causes a ‘ring of fire’ annular solar eclipse. In the future that will be the only kind of central solar eclipse. The Moon is gradually drifting away from Earth at 1.5 inches per year and once it’s 14,600 miles farther out it will appear too small from Earth to cover the Sun, according to NASA. That won’t happen for 600 million years.
RELATED: Learn More About Eclipses
6. Tennessee, Kentucky and Michigan will see a technical totality
For three of the 15 US States within the path of totality, it will be a fleeting experience. Only Slough Landing Neck in Lake County in Tennessee’s northwest corner will see totality while the banks of the Mississippi in Kentucky, including the town of Paducah, will witness darkness in the day. In Michigan totality will be experienced only by Erie in its extreme southeastern corner.
7. The eclipse may coincide with ‘storm chasing’ season in Tornado Alley
‘Tornado Alley’ in the US is what storm-chasers often call the western portions of the southern Great Plains covering Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska. It’s where the often devastating columns of violently rotating air are most frequently seen, though they can also occur in Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana and Michigan. Many of these states are in the path of totality on April 8, 2024. That should alarm most—and it’s advisable to stay away from those areas if storms are predicted—though storm-chasers will dream of seeing both an eclipse of the Sun and a tornado on the same day. Check your forecast for April 8 here.
8. It crosses the path of America’s last solar eclipse
Towns like Cape Girardeau in Missouri, Carbondale and Makanda in Illinois and Paducah in Kentucky all experienced totality on August 21, 2017, and will again on April 8, 2024. However, the path in 2024 also crosses the path of America’s next major total solar eclipse.
9. Onlookers will get cold and see ‘shadow bands’
When the Sun is blocked by the Moon, onlookers experience darkness in the day and a drop in temperature of about 10°F to 15°F. Also visible on the ground just before and after totality will be shadow bands, thin moving wavy lines moving and undulating in parallel, according to NASA. They’re a consequence of turbulence in Earth’s atmosphere.
10. The same alignment will cause an eclipse in 2042
Eclipses are not random. They take place in overlapping patterns called Saros (“the repetition”). Every 18 years, 11 days and eight hours the Sun, Moon and Earth align in almost the same way, causing a very similar solar eclipse. So on April 20, 2042 the same alignment that causes the 2024 total solar eclipses will bring a Moon shadow of very similar dimensions to Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. Both eclipses are part of Saros 139.
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Jamie Carter is an expert author and leading eclipse journalist based in the United Kingdom who writes for BBC Sky At Night, Space.com, Forbes.com, Travel+Leisure, and among other popular publications. Carter has written several astronomy books, including The Complete Guide To The Great North American Eclipse of April 8, 2024, When Is The Next Eclipse? When, Where, and How To See Lunar And Solar Eclipses: Travel Guide 2018-2030, and A Stargazing Program For Beginners: A Pocket Guide.