Earlier today parts of the U.S Southwest saw a “ring of fire” at the peak of a big partial annular solar eclipse enjoyed by the entire nation. It was a grand sight indeed, but it was but a warm-up to another, much more important celestial alignment happening on Monday, April 8 next year—a total eclipse of the sun.
Don’t get the two celestial sights confused. They’re so different. Both are, for the most part, identical events—partial solar eclipses that require solar eclipse glasses and filters to see and photograph safely.
For those inside a narrow path—which this weekend went through the U.S. Southwest—a “ring of fire” could only be seen safely through eclipse glasses.
In April, those inside another narrow path from Mexico through Texas to the U.S. Northeast and Canada can remove their eclipse glasses for a few minutes as totality strikes. With all of the sun blocked by the moon for a few minutes it will get dark—and that’s just for starters.
Totality is a profound moment because it’s possible to see, just for a few minutes, the sun’s majestic corona, its spiky white outer atmosphere. It’s like seeing the sun for the first time—a star hanging in space, looking like a black hole in the sky.
A total solar eclipse is something that happens in the same place on the planet on average once every 400 years or so, but there’s nothing average about the total solar eclipse coming to the U.S. on April 8.
The first in the U.S. since 2017 and the last until 2044, the moon will block the sun for an incredible four minutes 27 seconds that day, as seen from Texas Hill Country, which is precisely where this weekend’s “ring of fire” was seen.
Get To The Path
A quirk of celestial geography? Absolutely, but the total solar eclipse—a much more impressive event than a “ring of fire”—will be seen way beyond Texas. In fact, anyone inside a 115 miles wide path through Mexico, 15 U.S. states and Canada can enjoy totality.
This won’t be a big deal. It will be a colossal deal. The 2017 solar eclipse was viewed by 88% of all Americans—more than 214 million people– with about 12 million traveling to the path of totality. This time three times that live in the path of totality, with at least 32 million—and maybe as many as 50 million—predicted to witness totality on April 8.
While in 2017 it was a remote path, this time it will cross some big cities including Dallas, Little Rock, Indianapolis, Cleveland, Buffalo, Rochester (and nearby Niagara Falls), Montpelier and Montreal.
The major metropolises of New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Chicago and St. Louis are within a two or three-hour drive of the path.
Why To Experience Totality
The few minutes of totality at the peak of a total solar eclipse is a multi-sensory experience. It starts with what you can see, but there’s a lot to feel and hear, too. “During totality you’ll see the beautiful white corona of the sun and, because it will briefly get as dark as a full moon night, you’ll also see planets and colors all the way around the horizon,” said Dr. Angela Speck, Co-Chair of the American Astronomical Society’s Solar Eclipse Task Force and teacher of astrophysics at the University of Texas in San Antonio, in a press briefing.
It will also get cooler—just as it does when clouds block the sun on a hot day—but more so, while totality also tends to bring cooler breezes. Totality also comes with sounds, such as a sudden chorus of crickets—and people screaming a lot.
“In April we’ll actually get up to nearly four and a half minutes, so there’ll be plenty of time to really enjoy it,” said Speck.
Where To See The 2024 Total Solar Eclipse
As this map showing simulations of exactly what you’ll see demonstrates, the 2024 total solar eclipse will be visible from:
Mexico: Sinaloa, Durango and Coahuila.
U.S.: Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.
Canada: Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland.
I’m an expert on eclipses—the editor of WhenIsTheNextEclipse.com and author of The Complete Guide To The Great North American Eclipse of April 8, 2024. For the very latest on the total solar eclipse—including travel and lodging options—please subscribe or check my main feed regularly for new articles.
Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes.