The sun is about to perform another vanishing act over North America, transforming day into night through a total solar eclipse.
On April 8, the peak moment will have a duration of 4 minutes and 28 seconds in the area of complete darkness, which is double the length of the total solar eclipse that darkened the skies of the United States in 2017.
The upcoming solar eclipse will follow a new and busier path, starting over the Pacific coast of Mexico, passing through Texas and Oklahoma, and crossing over the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic, and New England regions before finally exiting over eastern Canada into the Atlantic.
Approximately 44 million individuals reside within the 115-mile (185-kilometer) wide zone of totality that extends from Mazatlán, Mexico to Newfoundland. Of those, approximately 32 million are in the United States, ensuring congested roads for those hoping to witness this spectacular celestial event.
NASA’s eclipse program manager, Kelly Korreck, stated that the eclipse will provide an opportunity for people to experience the wonders of the universe without having to travel far.
Learn more about the April event and get ready for it!
The alignment of the moon, Earth, and sun will cause the moon to block out the sunlight. This phenomenon will occur in less than 2.5 hours, as the moon’s shadow moves diagonally across North America from the southwest to the northeast. This will result in a brief period of darkness for communities along this path.
Fifteen states within the United States will receive a share of the profits, although two of those states, Tennessee and Michigan, will only receive a small portion.
Some of the cities in the heart of the action include Dallas, Little Rock, Arkansas, Indianapolis, Cleveland, Ohio, Buffalo, New York, and Montreal. This creates the largest gathering of people for the eclipse on the continent.
Do not worry if you do not have seats in the front row. Almost everyone on the continent will be able to see at least a partial eclipse. The further from the path of totality, the less of the sun will be covered by the moon. In Seattle and Portland, Oregon, which are among the furthest locations in the continental U.S., one-third of the sun will be obscured.
Fortunately, the moon will be at its closest distance to Earth one day prior to the total solar eclipse. This means that on the day of the eclipse, the moon will be only 223,000 miles (360,000 kilometers) away.
Due to its close distance, the moon will seem larger in the sky, causing an extended period of darkness due to the blocking of sunlight.
Additionally, on that day, the Earth and moon will be at an average distance of 93 million miles (150 million kilometers) from the sun.
When a nearer moon aligns with a farther sun, the period of totality can reach an impressive 7 1/2 minutes. The last instance of totality lasting more than seven minutes was observed in 1973 in Africa. This will not occur again until 2150 in the Pacific region.
Regular sunglasses are not sufficient. It is essential to have specialized eclipse glasses in order to safely view the sun during the eclipse, as the moon moves across the sky during the late morning and afternoon. These glasses will allow you to see the sun as it becomes increasingly covered by the moon, and then gradually becomes less covered.
When the sun is fully covered during totality, you can safely take off your glasses and view it with your bare eyes. However, before and after this phase, it is crucial to wear certified eclipse glasses to prevent any harm to your eyes. Be sure to check that the glasses are not damaged or scratched.
For safe viewing, it is necessary to equip cameras, binoculars, and telescopes with solar filters specifically designed for this purpose. In summary, it is important to never look directly at the sun without proper protection, regardless of the time of year.
Many towns along the path of totality are hosting star-themed events, such as festivals, races, yoga retreats, and drum circles. These events will take place at various locations, including museums, fairgrounds, parks, stadiums, wineries, breweries, and even an old drive-in theater in Ohio and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
In addition to gazing up at the sky, you have the opportunity to participate in a “space prom” in Texas Hill Country, exchange vows at eclipse-inspired weddings in Tiffin, Ohio and Russellville, Arkansas, or learn about the history of moonwalking at the Armstrong Air and Space Museum in Wapakoneta, Ohio – the birthplace of Neil Armstrong.
During the eclipse, NASA plans to launch small rockets equipped with scientific equipment into the upper atmosphere from Virginia. They will also use high-altitude planes to track the shadow of the totality. Satellites and the crew on the International Space Station will also try to capture the eclipse from space.
Total solar eclipses happen every 1-3 years, typically in remote locations such as the South Pacific or Antarctic. The following total solar eclipse, in 2026, will be visible in the northern regions of Greenland, Iceland, and Spain.
The next total solar eclipse in North America will not occur until 2033, and it will only be visible in Alaska. After that, the next opportunity to witness totality will be in 2044, but it will only be visible in Western Canada, Montana, and North Dakota.
The next total solar eclipse that will cross the entire United States will not occur until 2045. This event will begin in Northern California and end in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
NASA’s Korreck reports that, other than Carbondale, Illinois, which will experience both the 2017 and 2024 eclipses, it typically takes 400 to 1,000 years for a location to be in the path of totality again.
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