Two big eclipses—a near-total solar eclipse in October 2023 and a total eclipse in April 2024—are coming. Plan ahead on how and where to watch them.
Atop Idaho’s Menan Buttes in August 2017, visitors marveled at a rare, total solar eclipse, visible across much of the United States.
THROUGHOUT HISTORY, eclipses of the sun and moon have spawned tales of death, rebirth, fear and reverence. These celestial events still inspire awe, prompting many people to travel near or far to catch a glimpse of one of nature’s greatest spectacles.
Two superb opportunities to see solar eclipses are coming this fall and next spring—and early planning can help you catch a front-row seat.
On October 14, a near-total solar eclipse will track from Oregon’s coast through the Four Corners region into Texas and beyond. At points along the route, the moon will appear to almost entirely cover the sun, leaving only a thin ring, or annulus, of visible sunlight called a “ring of fire.” To observe this ring effect, position yourself within the roughly 125-mile-wide path of annularity.
About six months later, on April 8, 2024, a rare, total solar eclipse will cross North America, from Mexico through the United States into Canada. Along the 115-mile-wide path of totality, the moon will completely cover the sun, effectively turning day into night. The last total solar eclipse to cross the United States was in 2017, and the next won’t occur until 2045.
To view an eclipse, many people book campsites or hotel rooms at national parks or monuments that lie along the path, but you can experience the wonder closer to home. Many cities, campgrounds, universities and even vineyards host watch parties for fees ranging anywhere from $10 to more than $500 for multiday events with music and food.
Wherever you watch an eclipse, it’s essential that you protect your eyes with eclipse glasses or solar viewers designed to prevent the sun’s rays from damaging the retina. You’ll need additional filters if viewing through a camera, binoculars or a telescope. Some people choose to view indirectly by making a “pinhole projector”—which can be as simple as punching a hole in an index card—and casting the sun’s image onto an object like a rock or sidewalk.
Whether ordering safety gear or booking a campsite, do so early, because prices rise and availability shrinks as eclipse dates grow nearer. Such preplanning is worth the effort, says amateur astronomer Dan McGlaun, whose website eclipse2024.org offers detailed eclipse maps, simulators and safety tips. “Nothing can adequately prepare you for seeing your first total solar eclipse,” he says. “To be enveloped by the moon’s racing shadow, to see stars—stars!—in the middle of the day, you need to be in the path.”
To learn more about these upcoming solar events—including eclipse paths, guidance on safe viewing practices and lists of reputable solar-viewer providers—visit solarsystem.nasa.gov/eclipses.
New York-based science teacher Charles Fulco is a NASA solar system ambassador and avid eclipse chaser.
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