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Stargazing 2024: Solar Eclipse, Supermoons, and Meteor Showers Set to Amaze

Stargazing 2024: Solar Eclipse, Supermoons, and Meteor Showers

2024’s most spectacular celestial events, like eclipses and meteor showers, will be visible to the naked eye if you know when and where to spot them.

A Rare Cosmic Phenomenon: Total Solar Eclipse to Captivate Millions

The total solar eclipse will be visible from the U.S. on April 8.

Millions of people will see the sun go dark in the middle of the day when a total solar eclipse happens across a wide swath of the U.S., Canada, and Mexico on April 8. This remarkable phenomenon will captivate observers for an impressive duration of four minutes and 28 seconds, twice as long as the previous total solar eclipse in 2017.

A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon positions itself between the Earth and the sun, temporarily obstructing the sun’s brilliance. In 2024, the moon will be at its closest distance to Earth in April, a day before the eclipse, resulting in an extended period of totality where the moon fully covers the sun.

“The eclipse takes a while for the moon to slide onto the sun, cover it and then slide off. It’s usually 2.5 to three hours for the whole eclipse to happen,” said Shauna Edson, an astronomy educator at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

According to NASA, the next total solar eclipse of this magnitude won’t occur until 2044.

Path of the Eclipse: From Mexico to Canada and Beyond

The path of totality will glide over parts of northern Mexico before crossing into the U.S., gracing states including Texas, the Midwest, and the East Coast. It will then continue its trajectory over southeastern Canada and will finally vanish out to sea.

Directly within the path of darkness lie cities such as Dallas, Indianapolis, Little Rock, Cleveland, and Buffalo. Approximately 44 million people residing within the 115-mile-wide path will witness the extraordinary spectacle of total darkness.

Safe Viewing of the Solar Eclipse

Ensuring proper eye safety during a solar eclipse is of utmost importance. Astronomers strongly advise viewers to use specialized glasses that block out 99.99% of the sun’s light, providing the only safe way to observe the event. Looking directly at the sun without proper protection, such as these specially designed glasses or a solar telescope, may cause severe damage to the eyes.

However, individuals within the path of totality can safely view the eclipse without glasses during the approximate duration of nearly four and a half minutes when the moon completely covers the sun’s light. At that point, the sun’s most hazardous rays are entirely blocked, allowing direct observation with the naked eye. During this time, observers may even catch a glimpse of the sun’s atmosphere, showcasing remarkable loops of gas near the sun’s edges.

Eclipse Enthusiasts and Celebration Events

Eclipse aficionados across the nation are enthusiastically preparing to celebrate the cosmic event with a myriad of planned activities. The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, in collaboration with other Smithsonian Museums, will hold a Solar Eclipse Festival on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., featuring solar telescopes and various safe ways to observe the sun and the eclipse.

Local communities and educational institutions, such as the University of Texas at San Antonio and Southern Illinois University, have organized festivities and observing parties preceding and during the eclipse. Meanwhile, music festivals in Texas, including the Ground Zero music fest and the Texas Eclipse Festival, will provide concertgoers a unique opportunity to enjoy a rare tandem of music and astronomical wonder.

Published Date: 2024-02-08 | Updated Date: 2024-02-09

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