28 March 2024

It’s Showtime! April’s Total Solar Eclipse Is Upon Us

The day we’ve been impatiently waiting for is here! Eclipse enthusiasts of all stripes have been anticipating the dawning of April 8, 2024, when the Moon will pass directly between Earth and the Sun as seen from North America. The new Moon will fully block the Sun’s bright face, turning day into deep twilight and revealing the magnificent solar corona, our star’s wispy outer atmosphere. Our natural satellite’s dark shadow, about 115 miles wide, will cross Mexico, sweep from Texas to Maine, and then darken parts of eastern Canada. Tens of millions of people within the path will experience a total solar eclipse — at least the midday darkness, and a stunning view of the corona if skies are clear. Outside this narrow path, nearly everyone on the continent will get a chance to witness a partial solar eclipse, which is not nearly as awe-inspiring as a total one but still better than no eclipse at all.

Where to See the Eclipse

From beginning to end, a solar eclipse lasts up to about three hours. For most of that time, the Moon slowly covers the Sun, then uncovers it; these are the eclipse’s beginning and ending partial phases. The real excitement comes in the middle, but only for those within the narrow path of the Moon’s dark shadow, and only for a few precious, fleeting minutes.

You can experience a total solar eclipse only if you’re within the path of totality, a narrow ribbon arcing thousands of miles across Earth’s curved surface. The path of totality is the track of the dark shadow cast by the Moon as it moves in its orbit. Outside this path, no matter how close you are to it, you’ll only experience a partial solar eclipse. Some places along the path of totality are more likely than others to have clear skies, but anywhere within the path is better than anywhere outside the path. A total solar eclipse experienced under cloudy skies is more exciting than a partial solar eclipse seen under clear skies.

Map of the US showing path of 2024 eclipse totality
The Moon’s shadow will race across Mexico, the U.S., and eastern Canada. Weather prospects along the path of totality vary wildly, with parts of Mexico and Texas being the most favorable. The percentage lines refer to eclipse obscuration, which is the fraction of the Sun’s area covered by the Moon. Illustration courtesy of Michael Zeiler, GreatAmericanEclipse.com.

“If you can get yourself into the path of the Moon’s shadow for a total solar eclipse, it’s definitely worth the effort,” says Rick Fienberg, Project Manager of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) Solar Eclipse Task Force and Senior Contributing Editor of Sky & Telescope. “A 99% partial solar eclipse doesn’t get you 99% of the experience of a total solar eclipse — the last 1% is the difference between night and day. As the Moon blots out the thinning arc of the bright Sun in the final minute before totality, daylight fades by hundreds of times. And the solar corona surrounding the Moon’s velvety black silhouette is one of the most glorious sights in all of nature!”

During a total solar eclipse you’ll experience many other noteworthy phenomena, including a drop in air temperature, changes in wind speed and direction, bright planets and stars shining in deep twilight, ruby-red solar prominences (eruptions of hot gas protruding beyond the limb, or edge, of the Sun’s hidden disk), pastel sunrise/sunset colors around the horizon, and animals, birds, insects, and perhaps even plants behaving as if the Sun has set. Another total solar eclipse won’t cross the U.S. until August 12, 2045, so this April’s event is your best chance to catch totality here for a generation.

The following table gives the local circumstances for select cities in the U.S., Mexico, and Canada within the path of totality.


Partial eclipse begins

Total eclipse begins

Partial eclipse ends

Duration of totality

Mazatlán, Mexico

9:51 a.m.

11:07 a.m.

12:32 p.m.

4m 18s

Durango, Mexico

10:55 a.m.

12:12 p.m.

1:37 p.m.

3m 46s

Gómez Palacio, Mexico

11:00 a.m.

12:17 p.m.

1:41 p.m.

4m 16s

Piedras Negras, Mexico

11:10 a.m.

12:27 p.m.

1:51 p.m.

4m 24s

Austin, Texas

12:17 p.m.

1:36 p.m.

2:58 p.m.

1m 52s

Dallas, Texas

12:23 p.m.

1:41 p.m.

3:03 p.m.

3m 49s

Little Rock, Arkansas

12:34 p.m.

1:52 p.m.

3:12 p.m.

2m 27s

Cape Girardeau, Missouri

12:42 p.m.

1:58 p.m.

3:17 p.m.

4m 06s

Carbondale, Illinois

12:43 p.m.

1:59 p.m.

3:18 p.m.

4m 08s

Indianapolis, Indiana

1:51 p.m.

3:06 p.m.

4:23 p.m.


Cleveland, Ohio

1:59 p.m.

3:14 p.m.

4:29 p.m.

3m 49s

Erie, Pennsylvania

2:02 p.m.

3:16 p.m.

4:31 p.m.

3m 42s

Hamilton, Ontario

2:04 p.m.

3:18 p.m.

4:31 p.m.

1m 53s

Buffalo, New York

2:05 p.m.

3:18 p.m.

4:32 p.m.

3m 45s

Rochester, New York

2:07 p.m.

3:20 p.m.

4:33 p.m.

3m 39s

Burlington, Vermont

2:14 p.m.

3:26 p.m.

4:37 p.m.


Houlton, Maine

2:22 p.m.

3:32 p.m.

4:41 p.m.

3m 18s

Montréal, Quebec

2:14 p.m.

3:27 p.m.

4:37 p.m.

1m 17s

Sherbrooke, Quebec

2:17 p.m.

3:28 p.m.

4:38 p.m.

3m 25s

Fredericton, New Brunswick

3:24 p.m.

4:34 p.m.

5:42 p.m.

2m 16s

All times are local daylight-saving time. Source: RASC Observer’s Handbook. 

Eye Safety Is Paramount

The totally eclipsed Sun is about as bright as a full Moon in the sky and is just as safe to look at directly without eye protection, even through binoculars or a telescope. But during the partial phases, the Sun remains dangerously bright at all times and must never be looked at directly except through special-purpose “eclipse glasses” or handheld solar viewers that meet the requirements of the ISO 12312-2 international standard. The American Astronomical Society’s webpage on eye safety has valuable advice on where to get safe solar filters and on indirect viewing methods. During totality, you can and should remove your eclipse glasses or solar viewers — otherwise you won’t see anything at all!

Eclipse glasses and handheld solar viewers are meant to be used only with your eyes. Never look at the Sun through an unfiltered camera, telescope, binoculars, or any other optical device while using your eclipse glasses or handheld solar viewer — the concentrated solar rays could damage the filter and enter your eyes, causing serious injury. Solar filters must be attached to the front of any telescope, binoculars, camera lens, or other optics.

Eclipse Geometry

We get solar eclipses because, by an amazing cosmic coincidence, the Sun and Moon appear almost exactly the same size in our sky. The Sun’s diameter is really about 400 times bigger than the Moon’s, but the Sun is also about 400 times farther away. Because Earth’s orbit around the Sun and the Moon’s orbit around Earth are both ellipses rather than circles, the apparent sizes of the Sun and Moon vary a little during the year (Sun) and during each month (Moon).

Our planet is closest to the Sun (perihelion) in early January and farthest (aphelion) in early July, and the Sun appears about 3% wider in January than in July — not that you’d notice. When the Moon is closest to Earth (perigee), its apparent diameter can be up to 14% larger than when it’s farthest (apogee); again, this effect is not too noticeable. When the Moon is closer than average and the Sun farther away than average, as will be the case on April 8th, the Moon can easily cover the entire solar disk and unveil the ethereal corona.

You might wonder why we don’t have a solar eclipse at every new Moon. This is because the Moon’s orbit around Earth is tipped by about 5° to Earth’s orbit around the Sun (which, from our perspective, is the Sun’s annual path through the zodiacal constellations). At new Moon, our natural satellite usually passes above or below the Sun. But twice each year, currently in April and October, the new Moon does pass in front of the Sun, so we get solar eclipses — including an annular eclipse crossing Chile and Argentina on October 2nd this year. Whether a solar eclipse is partial, annular, or total depends on how precisely the Sun, Moon, and Earth align and on the distances of the Moon and Sun from Earth.

Diagram of a total solar eclipse
When the Moon casts its shadow on Earth, people on the ground see the Moon eclipsing the Sun. The shadow’s umbra (shadow cone) is the dark central part where lucky viewers will experience a total eclipse. In the penumbra the Moon covers only some of the Sun, and the eclipse is partial. Sky & Telescope illustration; source: Beatriz Inglessis.

Travel Advice

When traveling to an observing site in the path of totality, you should arrive early, stay put, and leave late — otherwise you’re likely to get stuck in a massive traffic jam, possibly causing you to miss totality altogether. Traffic is worst right after totality ends, when many observers pack up and leave all at once. Most eclipse-watching events offer entertainment or other activities after the eclipse. Stick around for those so you’ll have an easier and quicker trip home.

Eclipse Info in Your Pocket

The AAS (Sky & Telescope’s publisher), Big Kid Science, and the American Institute of Physics (AIP) have teamed up to produce version 4.0 of the Totality app, which is free for iOS and Android smartphones. Features include interactive maps and detailed eclipse circumstances for all total solar eclipses from 2024 to 2030 as well as useful information on eye safety and on how and why eclipses occur. In addition, the app taps into your phone’s GPS not only to show what you can see at your current location, but also to advise you on the nearest location where you can witness totality — and give you driving directions. It’s also ad-free, for a seamless and enjoyable eclipse-exploring experience. You can learn more about Totality and other eclipse apps on Sky & Telescope’s website.

More Information

A thorough review of the April 2024 total solar eclipse appears in a special Sky & Telescope issue dedicated to the event, The Great 2024 Eclipse, available for purchase online and at select newsstands. The April 2024 issue of Sky & Telescope magazine contains a succinct summary and is also available online and on newsstands.

The Sky & Telescope website continues to provide updated information through its dedicated April 2024 eclipse webpage.

The American Astronomical Society’s Solar Eclipse Task Force has collated important logistics advice and eye-safety information in one handy website.

You can get local circumstances of upcoming solar (and lunar) eclipses for cities worldwide on TimeandDate.com’s Eclipses page.


Susanna Kohler, Editor, AAS Nova
Susanna Kohler
AAS Communications Manager & Press Officer
+1 202-328-2010 x127
Diana Hannikainen
Observing Editor, Sky & Telescope
+1 617-500-6793 x22100
Rick Fienberg
Rick Fienberg
Project Manager, AAS Solar Eclipse Task Force
+1 857-891-5649


2024 eclipse globe:

Over the April 8, 2024, solar eclipse’s total duration of 3 hours 15 minutes, the Moon’s shadow travels along a 9,200-mile strip that extends from the Pacific Ocean, across North America, to the Atlantic Ocean. At the point of greatest eclipse totality lasts nearly 4½ minutes. Blue percentage lines refer to eclipse magnitude, the fraction of the Sun’s diameter covered by the Moon at maximum eclipse. Within the green path, that fraction exceeds 100%. Red lines indicate when maximum eclipse occurs in Universal Time, which is 4 hours ahead of Eastern Daylight Time (7 hours ahead of Pacific Daylight Time) in the United States. Sky & Telescope illustration; source: Fred Espenak.

2024 totality map:

The Moon’s shadow will race across Mexico, the U.S., and eastern Canada. Weather prospects along the path of totality vary wildly, with parts of Mexico and Texas being the most favorable. The percentage lines refer to eclipse obscuration, which is the fraction of the Sun’s area covered by the Moon. Illustration courtesy of Michael Zeiler, GreatAmericanEclipse.com.

Solar eclipse diagram:

When the Moon casts its shadow on Earth, people on the ground see the Moon eclipsing the Sun. The shadow’s umbra (shadow cone) is the dark central part where lucky viewers will experience a total eclipse. In the penumbra the Moon covers only some of the Sun, and the eclipse is partial. Sky & Telescope illustration; source: Beatriz Inglessis

Eclipse illumination graph:

This graph shows the reduction in daylight as the Moon covers the Sun from 1st contact (the beginning of the partial eclipse) to 2nd contact (the beginning of the total eclipse) 1¼ hour later for a typical solar eclipse. Most of the reduction in ambient illumination occurs in the final minute or so before totality, and daylight returns just as quickly at totality’s end. Sky & Telescope illustration; source: Rick Fienberg / Beatriz Inglessis.

Solar eclipse photo:

A total solar eclipse is the most spectacular of celestial phenomena. Only during the fleeting minutes of totality can you view the ghostly wisps, loops, and streamers of the solar corona –– the Sun’s million-degree outer atmosphere –– surrounding the velvety black silhouette of the new Moon, with ruby-red fountains of glowing gas jutting from the Sun’s hidden edge, and pastel sunset/sunrise colors circling the horizon. Photo by Gary Seronik.

For skywatching information and astronomy news, visit SkyandTelescope.org or pick up Sky & Telescope magazine, the essential guide to astronomy since 1941. Sky & Telescope and SkyandTelescope.org are published by the American Astronomical Society, along with SkyWatch (an annual beginner's guide to the night sky) as well as books, star atlases, posters, prints, globes, apps, and other products for astronomy enthusiasts.

The American Astronomical Society (AAS), established in 1899, is a major international organization of professional astronomers, astronomy educators, and amateur astronomers. Its membership of approximately 8,000 also includes physicists, geologists, engineers, and others whose interests lie within the broad spectrum of subjects now comprising the astronomical sciences. The mission of the AAS is to enhance and share humanity’s scientific understanding of the universe as a diverse and inclusive astronomical community, which it achieves through publishing, meetings, science advocacy, education and outreach, and training and professional development.

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