Have you ever experienced the striking beauty of a total solar eclipse? If not, mark your calendar for April 8, 2024. Better yet: Plan a vacation around it. We recommend heading to the Southwest, where you’ll have a good chance of clear skies. Live in Texas? You’re lucky because you may not have to travel at all!
Eclipses happen fairly frequently, but this one is special. The last “Great North American Eclipse,” which took place in 2017, went coast-to-coast and was visible for the approximately 11 million people who were situated inside the 70-mile-wide path of totality. But this eclipse’s path of totality is wider (125 miles), which means it will be accessible to hundreds of millions of people.
Don’t miss your chance because the next opportunity to view a total solar eclipse in North America won’t be until March 2033, and you’d have to travel to western Alaska for that one. After that, you’ll have to wait until August 2044, when this spectacular sky event appears in parts of western Canada, Montana, and North Dakota. See our locations and times below.
The Great Solar Eclipse 2024
What Makes A “Total” Solar Eclipse Different?
Total solar eclipses occur when the Moon completely blocks the Sun and turns day into night. The sky darkens and stars shine all around! The otherwise invisible outermost rays of the Sun (the corona) radiate around the Moon like a giant halo of light, extending into space for a distance up to five times the diameter of the Sun. Other forms of eclipses may darken the sky, but they don’t create the same awe-inspiring, other-worldly effect.
The path of totality begins in Mexico and runs northeast — across the United States — into Canada, specifically Ontario, Quebec, and the Maritimes.
Many places across North America will experience a partial eclipse, but only those within a 125-mile-wide path will experience a truly brilliant cosmic performance. Even in Toronto, where 99.8 percent of the Sun will be obscured, the tiniest dot of remaining sunlight will spoil the view. To find the nearest city where the eclipse can be viewed or make plans to travel to one, see our list below.
There are some devoted “eclipse chasers” who organize their vacations and travel long distances so that they can witness as many eclipses as possible. It takes dedication, because the Moon’s shadow seems to have a habit of passing over unpopulated and inhospitable parts of our planet. Why bother traveling to see a total eclipse? See one for yourself and you will understand! (Though be sure to wear proper eyewear.)
Astronomy writer Guy Ottewell planned to create a painting of the 1983 eclipse visible from Borobudur in Java. He later wrote: “During the minutes of totality I was conscious of being in a different visual world; of trying to memorize colors for which I had no names, which would be as hard to recall or describe as a taste.”
A Bite Out Of The Sun?
A little over an hour before the total phase, the Moon will intervene between the Sun and the Earth. It will slowly glide across the face of the Sun and almost look as if a giant bite is being taken out of the Sun—until it disappears. In fact, many cultures around the world believed that eclipses were the result of a mythological creature devouring the Sun.
Strange, Flickering Shadows
A few minutes before the total phase, the Sun will be nothing more than a thin filament of light. The Moon casts shadows on the Earth that appear differently than regular shadows. They look more like black and white stripes that alternate every two or so inches that flicker and move across the ground. Known as “shadow bands,” these bizarre light effects are believed to be caused by the narrow stream of sunlight that passes the Moon before and after the total eclipse that becomes distorted by the atmosphere. (Stars appear to twinkle for the same reason.)
The Diamond Ring Effect
In the seconds before totality, the remaining sunlight on either side of the Moon divides into small segments known as “Baily’s Beads.” Rounded or oblong in appearance, they sometimes seem to merge or flow together.
This effect is caused by the irregularly shaped mountains and valleys along the limb of the Moon. Around the same time, the innermost corona — the outer atmosphere of the Sun — will begin to glow around the edge of the dark Moon.
Occasionally, a single bead of sunlight will linger for several seconds, gleaming like a diamond, creating the illusion of a spectacular diamond ring in the sky. (This phenomenon is pictured in the first image of this story.)
Day Becomes Night
As the final bead of light winks out, the light of the Sun will seem to rush out in a deathly silence — as if being suddenly immersed in a vacuum.
For a few seconds, the Sun’s innermost atmosphere (chromosphere) will glow around the black Moon in a brilliant ruby circular band, followed by a halo of pearlescent light (corona) — as bright as the light of a full Moon.
The corona differs in size, tints, and patterns from eclipse to eclipse. Sometimes it has a soft, even look. Other times, long rays will shoot out in three or four directions. It may stand out from the disk in stiff streamers or end in brush-like tips.
Twisted scarlet threads (the prominences) also appear at this time around the Moon’s disk. They look like tiny red flames when viewed with binoculars. In reality, they are often tens, sometimes even hundreds of thousands, of miles high, consisting of hot masses of hydrogen gas rushing out from the surface of the Sun.
The light from the corona, combined with the light that filters through from uneclipsed parts of the sky (such as just outside the Moon’s dark shadow), will make the illumination of the sky during totality about the same as the twilight sky 30 to 40 minutes after sunset or before sunrise.
Venus and Jupiter Become Visible
Some of the brightest stars and planets will become visible. Most noticeable by far will be the brilliant planet Venus, gleaming to the right or west of the darkened Sun. Farther off to the left or east of the Sun will shine Jupiter. Fainter stars and planets will appear here and there, such as Capella, Mars, and Saturn, but the light of the corona will quench most of the stars (as the light of the full Moon does).
When the darkness descends, birds will go to roost, flowers will close, and animals will bed down. Within about four minutes, totality will end, and all of the phenomena just described will occur in reverse sequence as the lunar shadow moves rapidly off to the northeast.
Total Solar Eclipse 2024 Locations
Cities In The Path Of Totality
|Austin, Texas||1:36 p.m.||1 min. 53 sec.|
|Dallas, Texas||1:40 p.m.||3 min. 47 sec.|
|Little Rock, Arkansas||1:51 p.m.||2 min. 33 sec.|
|Cape Girardeau, Missouri||1:58 p.m.||4 min. 06 sec.|
|Carbondale, Illinois||1:59 p.m.||4 min. 08 sec.|
|Indianapolis, Indiana||3:06 p.m.||3 min. 46 sec.|
|Cleveland, Ohio||3:13 p.m.||3 min. 50 sec.|
|Erie, Pennsylvania||3:16 p.m.||3 min. 43 sec.|
|Buffalo, New York||3:18 p.m.||3 min. 45 sec.|
|Hamilton, Ontario||3:18 p.m.||1 min. 45 sec.|
|Burlington, Vermont||3:26 p.m.||3 min. 14 sec.|
|Montreal, Quebec||3:26 p.m.||1 min. 12 sec.|
|Island Falls, Maine||3:31 p.m.||3 min. 20 sec.|
|Fredericton, New Brunswick||4:33 p.m.||2 min. 16 sec.|
|Tignish, Prince Edward Island||4:35 p.m.||3 min. 13 sec.|
|Bonavista, Newfoundland||5:13 p.m.||2 min. 51 sec.|
Cities Outside The Path Of Totality. (If you are based in any of these locations, you will want to travel closer to the any of the cities mentioned above to experience the grandeur of the Great Solar Eclipse 2024 event.)
of Sun covered
|Honolulu, Hawaii||7:12 a.m.||18|
|Juneau, Alaska||10:32 a.m.||02|
|Los Angeles, California||11:12 a.m.||49|
|San Francisco, California||11:13 a.m.||34|
|Seattle, Washington||11:29 a.m.||20|
|Denver, Colorado||12:40 p.m.||65|
|Mexico City, Mexico||1:14 p.m.||74|
|New Orleans, Louisiana||1:49 p.m.||82|
|Kansas City, Missouri||1:54 p.m.||90|
|St. Louis, Missouri||2:00 p.m.||99|
|Minneapolis, Minnesota||2:02 p.m.||74|
|Chicago, Illinois||2:07 p.m.||94|
|Miami, Florida||3:01 p.m.||46|
|Atlanta, Georgia||3:04 p.m.||82|
|Cincinnati, Ohio||3:09 p.m.||99|
|Detroit, Michigan||3:14 p.m.||99|
|Washington, D.C.||3:20 p.m.||87|
|New York City, New York||3:25 p.m.||90|
|Boston, Massachusetts||3:29 p.m.||93|
Note: If you live in St. Louis, Chicago, Cincinnati, or Detroit, you will be close to totality, but not close enough! It’s equivalent to going to the Super Bowl but being stuck outside the stadium without a ticket.
A Final Thought On The Solar Eclipse 2024
We hope the total solar eclipse of April 2024 brings you a newfound appreciation of the wonder and mystery of the cosmos! For those journeying into the path of totality, good luck and may clear skies be before you!
Join The Discussion
Are you located close to the path of totality?
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Joe Rao is an esteemed astronomer who writes for Space.com, Sky & Telescope, and Natural History Magazine. Mr. Rao is a regular contributor to the Farmers' Almanac and serves as an associate lecturer for the Hayden Planetarium in New York City.