The Next Total Solar Eclipse Will Be the Last Until 2044, NASA Says
You'll have to wait two decades to watch another one of the celestial events.
Whether you're a casual stargazer or a devoted amateur astronomer, there's no denying that there's something special about witnessing a rare celestial event like a solar eclipse. Besides the fact that they only occur a few times each decade, getting a good view can come down to where you live having the right weather conditions. If you'd love to witness a solar eclipse anytime soon, you may want to mark off your calendars. NASA says the next one will be the last you can see from the U.S. until 2044. Read on for more info on how to catch this unique event.
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The last solar eclipse visible from the U.S. for two decades will take place next year.
If catching a major cosmic event has been an item on your bucket list, you might want to grab your calendar. On Apr. 8, 2024, North America will have front-row seats to a total solar eclipse for the first time since 2017. But besides being a relatively rare event in and of itself, this will also be the last opportunity to view a full eclipse from within the contiguous United States until Aug. 23, 2044, according to NASA.
You'll be able to view the spectacle from some states as it arcs from Mexico up to Canada.
Even though many areas across the U.S. will be treated to at least a partial eclipse, only places that are in the total eclipse's direct path will get to experience the moon entirely blocking out the sun. The first sight of totality on the continent will start on Mexico's Pacific Coast before it becomes visible stateside around noon in Texas, according to NASA. From there, the path will continue north through Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine before leaving the U.S. in the late afternoon.
Viewers in Canada will be able to experience the eclipse as it begins its path through Southern Ontario and eventually makes its way through Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Cape Breton. The eclipse will disappear from North America as it passes off the East Coast of Canada in the early evening.
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A total solar eclipse can be a serene and surreal experience.
So long as weather conditions remain favorable, part of what makes the experience of a total solar eclipse so special is the truly unique conditions it can create for those in its path. During the initial partial eclipse phase—or for those watching in areas outside of the total eclipse's path—viewers will first notice a crescent blocking out part of the sun as the moon slightly covers the star while wearing the appropriate safety glasses, according to NASA.
For a few fleeting moments before the sun is covered, spectators might also be able to catch sight of Baily's Beads, which are glimmers of light that form bright spots as sunlight passes through crags, craters, and valleys on the moon. A sharp, bright spot on the edge of the moon's shadow known as the "diamond ring" will then appear, named for its resemblance to a sparkling piece of jewelry.
The moment the sun is completely blocked out is known as "totality," marking the only point of the experience you can watch directly without protective glasses. Spectators might be able to make out different parts of the sun's atmosphere, including a pink ring created by the star's chromosphere or rays of white light from the corona. But while the view above is spectacular, sights on the ground can be just as surreal as conditions can create "a 360-degree sunset," planets and bright stars can become briefly visible, the air temperature can drop, and "often an eerie silence will settle around you," NASA describes.
It can also be a unique shared moment amongst your fellow spectators. "You don't think it's that big of a deal, but what happens during an eclipse is that the moon goes in front of the sun in a perfect configuration to cast a shadow on the earth, so we will be in the path of totality, the earth will go dark for 3 minutes and 38 seconds…The birds will fly back to their nests, but more important than the natural phenomenon, it's actually a really personal phenomenon, and it's a community phenomenon," Debra Ross, chair of Eclipse Task Force in Rochester, New York, told local CBS affiliate WROC.
Anyone hoping to catch the total solar eclipse next year may want to start making plans now.
If you're already excited to catch a glimpse of the rare celestial event for the last time until 2044, it might not be a bad idea to start preparing for the experience. Arguably most importantly, NASA warns you'll need the correct specially designed safe solar viewing glasses or handheld viewer to actually be able to see it. Otherwise, you'll need to use an indirect viewing technique, such as a pinhole projector.
"Except during the brief total phase of a total solar eclipse, when the moon completely blocks the sun's bright face, it is not safe to look directly at the sun without specialized eye protection for solar viewing," the space agency warns, clarifying that normal sunglasses won't offer sufficient protection. "Viewing any part of the bright sun through a camera lens, binoculars, or a telescope without a special-purpose solar filter secured over the front of the optics will instantly cause severe eye injury."
And besides ensuring you have the proper equipment, you might also want to consider arranging a place to stay if you have to travel to witness the event. Cities along the path of totality will likely see a large influx of tourists scooping up available lodging, with Ross saying organizers expect anywhere between 375,000 to 500,000 people to descend upon Rochester alone.
"We've been starting to spread the word really since 2019 by meeting and also kind of designating everyone as an eclipse ambassador, so everyone watching right now, get ready because all of your out-of-town relatives are coming here [and] they're gonna want to stay in your house," Ross told WROC.