Solar eclipse 2024: Millions in North America will see what promises to be a huge hit

  • Written by Jonathan Amos
  • Science Reporter

Image source, Getty Images/St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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The good people of Carbondale can do it again and for longer

How lucky are the people of Carbondale, Illinois?

Celestial mechanics says that any spot on Earth's surface should witness a total solar eclipse only once every 375 years on average.

The Midwestern city's 30,000 residents are likely laughing at that statistic because they're about to see the moon eclipse the disk of the sun for the second time in just seven years.

What's more, the upcoming eclipse on April 8 will be better than the one they saw in 2017. The sky will remain black for 4 minutes and 9 seconds, nearly twice as long as the last time.

Image source, Getty Images

Up to 200,000 people are expected to flock to prime viewing sites in southern Illinois to view the Great American Eclipse, Part II. But this will also be true along the eclipse's path, from the Pacific coast of Mexico to the Atlantic coast of Canada. The upcoming event is set to be a huge success.

In 2017, the path of the deepest shadow — the “cluster” — extended from Oregon in the northwestern United States to South Carolina in the southeast. This actually covered some sparsely populated areas, including several national parks.

In contrast, the 2024 event will cover some major metropolitan areas in the United States, such as Dallas, Indianapolis, Cleveland and Buffalo.

Dr. Kelly Couric, director of the US space agency's eclipse program, told BBC News: “This eclipse will be the most densely populated eclipse in the United States, as 31.5 million people will be able to leave their homes to watch it on foot.”

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Artwork: Planes equipped with NASA instruments will chase the shadow

As expected, NASA will conduct simple experiments that day, such as launching rockets into the moon's shadow to see how it affects the upper part of Earth's atmosphere, or its ionosphere. Equipped jets will also hunt down the shadow.

Dr Amir Kaspi from the Science and Technology Research Centre, said: “The reason we fly airplanes, besides them being really cool, is that going up high in the atmosphere means you can actually access wavelengths of light that you can't access from the ground.” Southwest Research Institute.

The 2024 total solar eclipse will begin in the Pacific Ocean, where a dark sun will greet residents of Penrhyn Atoll, part of the Cook Islands, at dawn, at 06:40 CST (16:40 GMT).

The moon's shadow, or shadow, will move across the Earth's surface at more than 2,500 kilometers per hour (1,500 mph), crossing the Mexican coast at 11:07 GMT (18:07 GMT) and the Rio Grande border between Mexico and America. United States at 13:27 CDT (18:27 GMT).

Image source, Getty Images

The journey continues through 13 US states, before sweeping through the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick (16:32 EST; 19:32 GMT) and Newfoundland (16:39 EST; 19:39 GMT).

The moon's shadow will rise above the Earth's surface in the Atlantic Ocean at 21:55 CET (19:55 GMT), about 1,120 kilometers (700 miles) west of Normandy, France.

Sorry, Europe; Maybe next time.

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Special Day: Promotional poster from astronomer and artist Tyler Nordgren (Image source: tylernordgren.com)

Keen sky watchers already have their plans in place.

They will have considered transportation and accommodation options and will pay close attention to historical weather patterns.

Chances of avoiding confusing clouds are best in Mexico and Texas. But the truth is, on any day, anywhere, the weather can make or break your happiness – and that goes for Carbondale, too.

Image source, S. R. Habbal and M. Druckmüller

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A total solar eclipse provides a rare opportunity to study the sun's corona

You might think that with all the space telescopes trained on the Sun these days, there is very little that eclipses can add to the body of solar knowledge.

But a total eclipse has its own peculiarity because it provides favorable conditions for studying the Sun's fragile outer atmosphere – the corona.

It is in this superheated magnetized “gas” of charged particles that the solar wind originates, from which billions of tons of matter can sometimes explode toward Earth to disable satellites, communications and even power grids.

The corona is above the surface of the Sun, its photosphere. The satellites will block out the glare using devices called coronagraphs, but they are usually so wide that they also obstruct the view of light directly above the edge of the star. It is in this region where the main coronal processes occur.

Only during an eclipse, when the Moon's disk coincides with the Sun's disk, can all sides of the corona be reached.

Image source, Aberystwyth University

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Scientists in the United Kingdom and the United States are working to monitor the eclipse

British scientists have collaborated with NASA to deploy the devices in Dallas. They will have a polarimeter to examine the directional quality of the corona light and a spectrometer to look for the behavior of excited iron atoms.

Dr Hugh Morgan from Aberystwyth University explained: “During an eclipse, nature gives us a unique opportunity to measure this region with relative ease, and see the links between the Sun and the solar wind.”

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However you watch the eclipse, doing so safely is crucial.

But you don't need to be a professional scientist to participate in eclipse science. There are many citizen research projects. For example:

  • the sunsketcher The initiative needs help measuring the exact shape of the sun. Yes, it's round, but it's slightly compressed at the poles.
  • Eclipse Soundscapes He will record how the natural world, especially animals, react when plunged into darkness. It seems that the bees have stopped flying.
  • the Global observer The project needs help recording temperature changes and cloud behavior.
  • And Megafilm Eclipse You will once again use an army of DSLR cameras to capture an expanded view of the event.

“Having people along the path will be a force multiplier for these observations and will enable us to make longer observations and more closely correlate what's happening and what's changing,” said NASA's Dr. Liz McDonald, who has been coordinating much of the citizen science activity.

Get out there and enjoy it, but do it safely. Do not look at the exposed sun with the naked eye.

Montana and North Dakota will see the end of a total solar eclipse in 2044, but the next event to cross a wide swath of the United States won't happen until the following year.

“It's special, that's why you should try it,” Dr. Couric said.

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