The 2024 Total Solar Eclipse Is Worth Traveling For. Here's Where To Go
The first major eclipse of the sun is coming to North America after nearly a decade. Here’s how to watch (safely)!
There’s a truly wondrous sky event coming for devoted fans of astronomy — and the rest of us too. A total solar eclipse is just a few months away, and it’s neither too early nor too late to start planning a trip to one of the many cool destinations within the path of totality. And no pressure, but you’ll have to wait 20 years for the next total solar eclipse to sweep across North America. Here’s everything you need to know to start planning.
What is a total solar eclipse?
During a total solar eclipse, the moon passes directly between the Earth and the sun, blocking the sun’s rays for a brief period.
There are five stages to a total solar eclipse. The final stage is what we typically think of when we hear “total” solar eclipse: the sun is completely hidden behind the moon and essentially disappears from the sky, except for an eerie bright halo called the “diamond ring” effect. It’s in this moment, that everything in the path of totality is cast into darkness, in the moon’s shadow.
The path of totality is narrow and brief, but there are lots of cities, towns, and parks in the U.S. in which to experience it next spring.
When is the 2024 total solar eclipse, and what is its path?
The total solar eclipse will happen on April 8, 2024, and the time and duration of the eclipse will depend on where you live.
The Planetary Society, the world’s largest independent space-interest organization, along with the Eclipse Company, have released user-friendly maps that help track the best viewing spot for the total solar eclipse.
What makes this map unique and especially helpful for parents trying to plan a memorable night to see the total solar eclipse is that it takes many factors into account, so you can find the optimal viewing spot based on where you are.
“It’s the only map available online that integrates details about cloud cover, light pollution, eclipse duration, and eclipse phenomena alongside information about viewing locations from local parks and events, as well as lodging options,” the Planetary Society notes.
The eclipse will start in Mexico and then enter the United States in Texas around 1:40 p.m., local time. From there, it will be viewable in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.
From there, the eclipse will enter Canada through Ontario, then Quebec, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island, and will exit through Newfoundland around 5:16 pm local time.
What are the best cities to view the 2024 total solar eclipse from?
If you’re on the path illustrated in the maps in this article, you’ll get a good chance to see at least a partial solar eclipse.
But if you want the whole experience — and who can blame you — Astronomy.com has put together a list of the 20 best towns and cities for viewing the total solar eclipse — many of them are small towns outside of major hubs that will have less light pollution. They do suggest that if you plan to travel to one of these locations with the family ahead of the total solar eclipse, you start your planning soon — it’s expected that the locations in the path of totality will see a large influx of visitors.
Some noteworthy towns in the U.S. include Radar Base, Texas — where you’ll spend the greatest amount of time in totality — Hillsboro, Texas, a smaller town south of Dallas, Cape Girardeau in Missouri, which is the largest city in the state to experience totality, and Buffalo, New York.
But by all means, there are plenty of other big cities that will be solid viewing spots: in Texas, San Antonio, Austin, and Dallas, as well as Hot Springs, Arkansas; Dayton and Toledo, Ohio; and Stowe, Vermont. For a larger list of cities to view the total solar eclipse in the path of totality, check out NationalEclipse.com.
Which National Parks are best for viewing the eclipse?
There are several National Parks and Monuments across seven states that will be in the path of totality, in Arkansas, Indiana, Maine, Missouri, New York, Ohio, and Texas.
Some of the National Parks in the path of totality include the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historic Park in Stonewall, Texas; the Waco Mammoth National Monument in Waco, Texas; Hot Springs National Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas; and Cuyahoga Valley National Park, just outside of Cleveland. For a full list of national parks and monuments in the path of totality, as well as times and durations, go to Cosmospnw.com.
How do you view the eclipse?
It’s very important to know that you need to be extremely careful when looking at an eclipse. Looking at the sun for any duration can damage your eyes, leading to potential blindness — doubly so during a partial solar eclipse.
To ensure a safe viewing experience during the eclipse, NASA provides the following guidelines:
- Avoid directly looking at the sun.
- Do not rely on homemade filters or regular sunglasses, even if they are very dark.
- Use dedicated solar filters like eclipse glasses or handheld solar viewers.
- Thoroughly read and follow the instructions provided with the filters and supervise children while using them.
- Never look at the sun through cameras, telescopes, binoculars, or other optical devices at any stage of the eclipse. Using solar filters with these devices can damage them and result in serious eye injury.
- Before use, carefully inspect your solar filter. If it is scratched or damaged, discard it.
Now, there is one exception for viewers in the path of totality. “You can view the eclipse directly without proper eye protection only when the moon completely obscures the sun’s bright face — during the brief and spectacular period known as totality,” NASA shares. “You’ll know it’s safe when you can no longer see any part of the Sun through eclipse glasses or a solar viewer.”
Where can you watch the total eclipse online?
The Exploratorium and NASA will have a livestream video available to watch for those who can’t catch the path of totality in real life or who prefer to watch in the comfort of their own home.
For the moment, there’s a countdown on the website — continue to check back as the date of the total solar eclipse nears.
On April 8, 2024, the live stream will be visible here: https://www.exploratorium.edu/eclipse/livestream
When will we be able to see another solar eclipse?
After the total solar eclipse in 2024, the next will take place in August 2026, but only for those who live in Spain, Iceland, and Greenland.
The next total solar eclipse that will be visible from the United States will be much further away — in August 2044, but only Canada and a very few areas in the U.S. — Montana, South Dakota, and North Dakota — will experience totality.
In 2045, California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, Arkansas, Missouri, Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida will experience a total solar eclipse, which will also pass through the Caribbean and South America.