In 2024, a total solar eclipse will depart over Mexico, the United States, and Canada, dazzling skywatchers all around North America.
Although the much-anticipated celestial event won’t take place until April 8, eclipse enthusiasts are already making reservations at hotels in the path of entirety, and experts advise doing the same to avoid missing out. That is most likely because a total solar eclipse won’t be seen again in the continental US until August 2044. (Nearly six years have passed since the 2017 “Great American Eclipse”).
What is a total solar eclipse?
Total solar eclipses happen when the moon totally obscures the sun’s face as it moves in front of Earth.
A total solar eclipse will be visible to people who are in the alley of totality, or areas where the moon’s shadow will fully block the sun. A partial solar eclipse, where the moon just partially covers the sun’s face, will still be visible to those who are outside the path of totality.
The sky will become darker during a total solar eclipse, much like it does at dawn or sunset, and observers look forward to numerous phases of the eclipse.
The event starts with a partial eclipse that turns the sun into a crescent since the moon doesn’t just emerge between Earth and the sun. According to NASA, the duration of the partial eclipse might range from 70 to 80 minutes, depending on where you are.
The phenomenon known as Baily’s beads is caused when the moon begins to pass over in front of the sun and the star’s rays shine around valleys on the moon’s horizon.
Baily’s beads will quickly vanish as totality approaches until only one light source, resembling a glittering massive diamond ring, is visible.
When totality occurs and there is no longer any evidence of direct sunlight, the diamond ring will vanish. The sky may be filled with brilliant planets or stars, and as the sun sets, the temperature of the atmosphere will drop. Animals become quiet as the night suddenly descends.
During totality, the sun’s hot outer atmosphere, or aureole, will appear as white light, while the chromosphere, or a portion of the sun’s atmosphere, may glow in a faint pink circle around the moon.
The diamond ring, the Baily’s beads, and the partial solar eclipse will appear on the other side of the moon as the moon continues to move over the face of the sun until the sun fully emerges.
When will there be another solar eclipse?
On October 14, an annular solar eclipse will pass through North, Central, and South America, viewable to millions across the Western Hemisphere.
Similar to a total solar eclipse, this type of eclipse cannot totally hide the sun since the moon is at its furthest point from Earth in its orbit. Instead, a “ring of fire” is formed in the sky during annular solar eclipses as the sun’s blazing brightness encircles the moon’s shadow.
The annular solar eclipse will travel a different route, commencing in the United States and appearing in Oregon, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, and Texas before ending on the coast of Texas. Additionally, regions of Arizona, Idaho, Colorado, and California will be able to see the annular eclipse.
The eclipse will leave the US and go through Mexico, Belize, Honduras, Panama, and Colombia before coming to a conclusion off the coast of Brazil in Natal.
What can eclipses teach us?
The complete solar eclipse of 2024 will provide scientists with a rare opportunity to investigate the sun and its interactions with Earth. NASA has chosen to support a number of these projects.
According to NASA program scientist Kelly Korreck, “Scientists have long used solar eclipses to make scientific discoveries.” They have aided in the discovery of helium, provided support for the general theory of relativity, and helped us comprehend how the Sun affects Earth’s upper atmosphere.
One study will rely on NASA’s high-altitude research planes to capture hitherto unobserved elements in the sun’s corona by photographing the eclipse from 50,000 feet (15,240 metres) above Earth’s surface. Additionally, the photographs can aid in the search for asteroids that pass close to the sun.
Both the annular and total solar eclipses will be used for an experiment by amateur radio operators to determine how these natural occurrences alter radio wave propagation. The signal’s power and its path will be tracked by operators in various locations. Because the sun directly affects Earth’s upper atmosphere, or ionosphere, which allows radio signals to go further, scientists are interested in measuring this distance.
However, this may alter if the moon obscures the sun.
Scientists are keen to record the sun’s highest activity through a range of observations that can only take place during eclipses as it approaches solar maximum in July 2025.