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What Makes Tomorrow’s Solar Eclipse So Special?

Margaret Lipman
Updated May 16, 2024
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The total solar eclipse that will be seen tomorrow (Monday) from a 115-mile-wide (185-km-wide) swathe of Mexico, the United States, and Canada has been described as a once-in-a-generation event. You’ll need to wait until 2044 to view another total solar eclipse in the contiguous United States.

Tomorrow afternoon (April 8, 2024), the moon, sun, and Earth will become perfectly aligned, with the moon blocking out the sun’s light and casting a shadow on the Earth below. For those in the path of totality, the sky will darken to twilight and the temperature will drop, with stars and planets (especially Jupiter and Venus) visible in the sky. Perhaps the biggest attraction of a total solar eclipse is being able to view the sun’s corona, the sun’s crownlike outer atmosphere. Plumes of solar gas and prominences may also be visible during the totality.

Even within the path of totality, the duration will depend on your location. In some places, it will be just a few seconds, while in others, the total eclipse will last three or four minutes. If you’re not in the path of totality, the sky won’t get particularly dark during the eclipse. In fact, even when the sun is 99% obscured, it will simply seem like a particularly cloudy, overcast day.

If the constant media coverage of the upcoming eclipse is giving you déjà vu, that’s because it’s only been 7 years since the most recent one was visible in North America. However, before that, the last total solar eclipse in the U.S. was in 1979.

Unlike in 2017, when the longest duration of totality was 2 minutes and 42 seconds, quite a few places will have totality for four minutes or more. And compared to 2017, tomorrow’s eclipse will feature a bigger, darker shadow due to Earth being slightly closer to the moon during the eclipse. It is also taking place close to the solar maximum, making this eclipse more dramatic than the 2017 eclipse.

This eclipse is likely to be viewed by many more people than the 2017 eclipse, which had a path of totality crossing the homes of 12 million Americans, compared to this year’s 32 million. It will cover more significant urban areas, including Dallas, Little Rock, Indianapolis, Cleveland, and Buffalo. Some 150 million people, including residents of New York City, Philadelphia, and Boston, live within 200 miles (322 km) of the path, with many of them likely to travel to see it.

(Not just any) total eclipse of the sun:

  • The weather forecast can significantly affect the viewing experience, with the clearest skies expected in northern New England. Thunderstorms are predicted for much of Texas, while clouds and rain are likely in Missouri, Kansas, Ohio, and parts of Pennsylvania.

  • Total solar eclipses happen roughly once every 18 months, but they frequently occur in remote places that are inaccessible to eclipse chasers, such as the middle of the ocean.

  • Remember, you’ll need eclipse glasses (not regular sunglasses and definitely not a camera, binoculars, or telescope without a special solar filter) if you plan to look directly at the eclipse, except for when the sun is completely obscured during the totality. If you’re not in the path of totality (i.e., you’re only viewing a partial eclipse), you’ll need to wear eclipse glasses the entire time, to prevent eye damage. You may be able to get some at your local public library, where 5 million pairs are being handed out for free.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Margaret Lipman
By Margaret Lipman
With years of experience as an educator, Margaret Lipman produces thoughtful and informative content across a wide range of topics. Her articles cover essential areas such as finance, parenting, health and wellness, nutrition, educational strategies. Margaret's writing is guided by her passion for enriching the lives of her readers through practical advice and well-researched information.
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Margaret Lipman
Margaret Lipman
With years of experience as an educator, Margaret Lipman produces thoughtful and informative content across a wide range...
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