NATIONAL NEWS

Countdown begins for April’s total solar eclipse. What to know about watch parties and safe viewing

Feb 11, 2024, 6:03 PM | Updated: 6:05 pm

FILE - The moon covers the sun during a total solar eclipse Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, in Cerulean, Ky....

FILE - The moon covers the sun during a total solar eclipse Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, in Cerulean, Ky. On April 8, 2024, the sun will pull another disappearing act across parts of Mexico, the United States and Canada, turning day into night for as much as 4 minutes, 28 seconds. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley, File)

(AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The sun is about to pull another disappearing act across North America, turning day into night during a total solar eclipse.

The peak spectacle on April 8 will last up to 4 minutes, 28 seconds in the path of total darkness — twice as long as the total solar eclipse that dimmed U.S. skies in 2017.

This eclipse will take a different and more populated route, entering over Mexico’s Pacific coast, dashing up through Texas and Oklahoma, and crisscrossing the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic and New England, before exiting over eastern Canada into the Atlantic.

An estimated 44 million people live inside the 115-mile-wide (185-kilometer-wide) path of totality stretching from Mazatlán, Mexico to Newfoundland; about 32 million of them are in the U.S., guaranteeing jammed roads for the must-see celestial sensation.

The eclipse will allow many to share in the “wonder of the universe without going very far,” said NASA’s eclipse program manager Kelly Korreck.

Here’s what to know about April’s extravaganza and how to prepare:

What happens during the total solar eclipse?

The moon will line up perfectly between the Earth and the sun, blotting out the sunlight. It will take just a couple hours for the moon’s shadow to slice a diagonal line from the southwest to the northeast across North America, briefly plunging communities along the track into darkness.

Fifteen U.S. states will get a piece of the action, albeit two of them — Tennessee and Michigan — just barely.

Among the cities smack dab in the action: Dallas; Little Rock, Arkansas; Indianapolis, Cleveland, Ohio; Buffalo, New York; and Montreal — making for the continent’s biggest eclipse crowd.

Don’t fret if you don’t have front-row seats. Practically everyone on the continent can catch at least a partial eclipse. The farther from the path of totality, the smaller the moon’s bite will be out of the sun. In Seattle and Portland, Oregon, about as far away as you can get in the continental U.S., one-third of the sun will be swallowed.

Why is totality longer?

By a cosmic stroke of luck, the moon will make the month’s closest approach to Earth the day before the total solar eclipse. That puts the moon just 223,000 miles (360,000 kilometers) away on eclipse day.

The moon will appear slightly bigger in the sky thanks to that proximity, resulting in an especially long period of sun-blocked darkness.

What’s more, the Earth and moon will be 93 million miles (150 million kilometers) from the sun that day, the average distance.

When a closer moon pairs up with a more distant sun, totality can last as long as an astounding 7 1/2 minutes. The last time the world saw more than seven minutes of totality was in 1973 over Africa. That won’t happen again until 2150 over the Pacific.

How do I safely watch the eclipse?

Sunglasses won’t cut it. Special eclipse glasses are crucial for safely observing the sun as the moon marches across the late morning and afternoon sky, covering more and more and then less and less of our star.

During totality when the sun is completely shrouded, it’s fine to remove your glasses and look with your naked eyes. But before and after, certified eclipse glasses are essential to avoid eye damage. Just make sure they’re not scratched or torn.

Cameras, binoculars and telescopes must be outfitted with special solar filters for safe viewing. Bottom line: Never look at an exposed sun without proper protection any day of the year.

Where are some eclipse watch parties?

Towns up and down the path of totality are throwing star parties. Festivals, races, yoga retreats, drum circles and more will unfold at museums, fairgrounds, parks, stadiums, wineries, breweries and even one of Ohio’s oldest drive-in movie theaters and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Besides looking up, you can attend a “space prom” in Texas Hill Country, get married at eclipse-themed ceremonies in Tiffin, Ohio, and Russellville, Arkansas, or brush up on moonwalking history at the Armstrong Air and Space Museum in Wapakoneta, Ohio — Neil Armstrong’s hometown.

As the eclipse unfolds, NASA will launch small rockets with science instruments into the upper atmosphere from Virginia and chase totality’s shadow from high-altitude planes. Satellites and the International Space Station crew will attempt to capture the show from space.

When is the next total solar eclipse?

Full solar eclipses occur every year or two or three, often in the middle of nowhere like the South Pacific or Antarctic. The next total solar eclipse, in 2026, will grace the northern fringes of Greenland, Iceland and Spain.

North America won’t experience totality again until 2033, with Alaska getting sole dibs. Then that’s it until 2044, when totality will be confined to Western Canada, Montana and North Dakota.

There won’t be another U.S. eclipse, spanning coast to coast, until 2045. That one will stretch from Northern California all the way to Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Aside from Carbondale, Illinois, in the crosshairs of both the 2017 and 2024 eclipses, it usually takes 400 years to 1,000 years before totality returns to the same spot, according to NASA’s Korreck.

KSL 5 TV Live

National News

This image released by Disney/Pixar shows Joy, voiced by Amy Poehler, left, and Anxiety, voiced by ...

Lindsey Bahr, The Associated Press

‘Inside Out 2’ scores massive $155 million opening

Hollywood’s summer movie anxieties gave way to joy this weekend with the massive debut of Disney and Pixar’s “ Inside Out 2.” The animated sequel earned $155 million in ticket sales from 4,440 theaters in the U.S. and Canada, according to studio estimates Sunday.

8 hours ago

Evidence markers are placed at the scene of a shooting at a splash pad in Rochester Hills, Michigan...

Dalia Faheid, Paradise Afshar, Sara Smart, Kim Berryman and Sharif Paget, CNN

Police search for motive after apparent ‘random’ shooting at Michigan recreation center wounds at least 9

Police are looking for a motive after at least nine people were shot in what appears to be a “random” shooting that sent panicked families fleeing a crowded recreation area in Rochester Hills, Michigan, on Saturday afternoon, authorities said.

9 hours ago

A driver blinks their hazard lights as heavy rain falls over parts of South Florida on Wednesday, J...

Associated Press

Much of US braces for extreme weather, from southern heat wave to possible snow in the Rockies

After days of intense flooding in Florida, that state and many others are bracing for an intense heat wave, while the Pacific Northwest will experience unseasonably cold weather and there is a potential for late-season snow in the Rocky Mountains early next week.

1 day ago

The flag installation seen in June 2023 on the fence at Christopher Park is part of the Stonewall N...

Ashley R. Williams, CNN

LGBTQ Pride Month flags vandalized near Stonewall National Monument, police say

Flags dedicated to celebrating LGBTQ Pride Month were vandalized this week in New York City, according to the city’s police department.

1 day ago

Aerial view over the airport of Lihue, Kauai, Hawaii, USA with view over the runway to the coastlin...

Gregory Wallace and Ross Levitt, CNN

FAA investigating Southwest flight that came within 400 feet of crashing into the ocean

A federal investigation is underway after a Southwest Airlines flight plunged toward the ocean off the coast of a Hawaiian island.

2 days ago

Susan Elandt has owned a child care center in the small city of Waupaca, Wisconsin, since 2016. She...

Meena Duerson and Tami Luhby, CNN

‘Just too burnt out’: Child care crisis crunches providers

While the price of keeping children in care is sky-high, the burden of running childcare centers is equally unsustainable. Providers are burnt out.

2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Photo courtesy of Artists of Ballet West...

Ballet West

The rising demand for ballet tickets: why they’re harder to get

Ballet West’s box office is experiencing demand they’ve never seen before, leaving many interested patrons unable to secure tickets they want.

Electrician repairing ceiling fan with lamps indoors...

Lighting Design

Stay cool this summer with ceiling fans

When used correctly, ceiling fans help circulate cool and warm air. They can also help you save on utilities.

Side view at diverse group of children sitting in row at school classroom and using laptops...

PC Laptops

5 internet safety tips for kids

Read these tips about internet safety for kids so that your children can use this tool for learning and discovery in positive ways.

Women hold card for scanning key card to access Photocopier Security system concept...

Les Olson

Why printer security should be top of mind for your business

Connected printers have vulnerable endpoints that are an easy target for cyber thieves. Protect your business with these tips.

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light up your home with these top lighting trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for hassle-free computer repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Countdown begins for April’s total solar eclipse. What to know about watch parties and safe viewing