By MADDIE BURAKOFF | The associated press
NEW YORK — Dust off your eclipse goggles: It’s only a year before a total solar eclipse sweeps across North America.
On April 8, 2024, the moon will cast its shadow over much of the US, Mexico, and Canada, plunging millions of people into midday darkness.
It’s been less than six years since a total solar eclipse swept across the US from coast to coast. That was on August 21, 2017.
If you miss next year’s spectacle, you’ll have to wait 20 years for the next one to come in the US. But that total solar eclipse will only be visible in Montana and the Dakotas.
Here’s what you need to know to prepare for the 2024 show:
WHERE CAN I SEE IT?
Next year’s solar eclipse will cut a diagonal line across North America on April 8, which falls on a Monday.
It will launch in the Pacific Ocean and first make landfall over Mexico around 11:07 a.m. local time, NASA predicts. Then it crosses into Texas and moves through parts of the Midwest and Northeast in the afternoon.
All in all, it will affect parts of 13 US states: Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. Cities in its path include Dallas; Little Rock, Arkansas; Indianapolis; Cleveland and Buffalo, New York.
Parts of Canada — including Quebec and Newfoundland — will also get a glimpse before the solar eclipse moves out to sea in the early evening.
A total solar eclipse will be visible within a 115-mile wide swath – the path of totality. Beyond that path, you can still see a partial eclipse, where the moon takes a bite out of the sun and turns it into a crescent shape.
Total solar eclipses occur about every 18 months, but often pass over remote areas where few people see them.
WHAT HAPPENS DURING AN ECLIPS?
Solar eclipses occur when the moon passes between the Earth and the sun, blocking sunlight from reaching us.
Although the moon is about 400 times smaller than the sun, it is also about 400 times closer to Earth, explains astronomer Doug Duncan of the University of Colorado. So if the orbits line up just right, the small moon can block out the entire sun. Whoever stands in the right place experiences totality: when the moon casts its shadow over the landscape.
“In just seconds you go from bright, clear daylight to the middle of the night,” said Dr. Debby Brown, who saw her first total solar eclipse in 2017 with Duncan at Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.
“The stars are out. Suddenly all the animals are silent,” recalls Brown from Arlington, Virginia.
During the 2024 eclipse, totality will stretch to about four and a half minutes — almost twice as long as it was in 2017.
WHAT’S THE BEST PLACE?
To capture the full eclipse experience, planning ahead is key, Duncan said. Weather can be a big factor as the solar eclipse comes in the spring when conditions are unpredictable. That’s why Duncan chose Texas for his eclipse tour next year, where the chances of clear skies are higher.
Your choice also depends on what kind of experience you’re looking for, said Bob Baer, who coordinates eclipse planning at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale.
Carbondale – at the intersection of both the 2017 and 2024 eclipse paths – will once again host a viewing event at the school’s stadium. It’s a big group experience, Baer said: “The last 20 minutes before totality, the stadium gets as loud as a football game.”
But you can find eclipse events of all different flavors along the eclipse path: luxury cruises in Mexico, music festivals in Texas, farm camping in Arkansas, planetarium visits in upstate New York.
“The goal at the end of the day is to get as many people out as possible while looking up during totality,” said Dan Schneiderman, who helps the Rochester Museum and Science Center with event planning. “Hopefully with their close friends and loved ones.”
You’ll want to grab eclipse glasses to see the partial phases before and after totality, Schneiderman added. Viewing the partially obscured sun without protection can cause serious eye damage.
Brown and her husband plan to join Duncan’s Austin eclipse tour. Her first eclipse experience flew by.
“I look forward to enjoying this even longer,” said Brown. “To be able to just lean into the moment.”
WHAT OTHER ECLIPSE ARE COMING?
The US is getting some solar eclipse ahead of the big event in 2024. There will be an annular solar eclipse — when the sun isn’t completely covered, but appears as a ring of fire in the sky — later this year, on Oct. 14. .
The eclipse’s path will run from Oregon down through California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.
There will be a rare hybrid solar eclipse later this month, alternating between a total and an annular solar eclipse at several points along its path. But few people will see it. The solar eclipse of April 20 will be mostly over the Indian Ocean and will only cover a few bits of Australia and Southeast Asia.
With a 20-year gap until the next total solar eclipse in the US, Duncan says it will be worth being on the path of totality next year. He has witnessed 12 total solar eclipses so far.
Seeing a partial eclipse — even if it’s 90 percent covered — means “you missed all the good stuff,” he said.
The Associated Press Health and Science division is supported by the Science and Educational Media Group of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. The AP is solely responsible for all content.