Share it! Science : February 2024

Everything You Need to Know to Safely View Total Solar Eclipse 2024

On April 8th, 2024 there will be a total solar eclipse viewable across North America, passing through the United States from Texas to Maine. A partial eclipse will be visible across all 48 contiguous states. 

Will you be observing this awesome celestial event? Did you catch the "Great American Solar Eclipse" in 2017? These total eclipses have been such a fantastic opportunity to bring so many of us together to observe a scientific phenomenon. I love it when we all have something science-related to get excited about! 

Find out here what happens during a solar eclipse, when and where to observe the solar eclipse in April, and most importantly, how to observe it safely.  

How to Observe Total Solar Eclipse 2024 Safely

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What is a Solar Eclipse?

There are two types of eclipses, a lunar eclipse and a solar eclipse. A lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth passes between the Sun and Moon, blocking the Sun's light and casting a shadow on the Moon. You probably have observed at least one of these in your lifetime. 
A solar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes between the Earth and the Sun. In this case, the Moon blocks the Sun's light from reaching Earth. It is a little more rare that we are able to view a solar eclipse. 

The diagram below helps to illustrate these concepts. See how little of the Earth is in darkness during the solar eclipse on the top half of the diagram? This is why it is rare that we get a chance to see it. 
The Lunar Eclipse, in the bottom half of the diagram, is visible from any place on Earth that is facing the moon at that time. This is why it is easier to catch a glimpse of a lunar eclipse.  
solar and lunar eclipse diagram 2024

How to View a Solar Eclipse Safely 

SAFETY FIRST! Whether you are in the path of totality for the next eclipse or will only see the sun partially obstructed, it is not safe to look directly at an eclipse! Just as looking at the sun can cause permanent damage to your retinas, so can looking at the sun during an eclipse. Regular sunglasses will not protect your eyes for this!

Solar Eclipse Glasses

There are several ways you can avoid damaging your precious eyes while eclipse viewing. You can purchase ISO 12312-2 certified solar eclipse glasses. Be cautious about your solar eclipse glasses purchase. Back in 2017 many counterfeit, unsafe glasses labeled with the ISO certification were on the market. Pretty icky stuff. Hopefully that is not the case this time around. Luckily, there are many companies that are well-known and trusted by the American Astronomical Society (AAS) as well as being certified safe. 

These are a few examples of AAS trusted solar eclipse glasses:
  1. Celestron: EclipSmart Safe Solar Eclipse Glasses
  2. American Paper Optics Eclipse Safety Glasses
  3. Lunt Solar Eclipse Glasses
If you are a public school looking for funding for solar eclipse glasses you can apply for a grant here.

Solar eclipse watch party

Build a Pinhole Camera

Another safe way to view an eclipse is to find a way to project the image of the eclipse somewhere else. One method is to make a pinhole camera, or pinhole projector. There are many easy ways to DIY your own. You can use the instructions here to make one out of a cardboard box.

Build a solar eclipse projector with me! If you have kids ages 8-11 then they can join me for my online class on solar eclipses. We will learn all about eclipses as well as how to view this one. Then we will make a solar eclipse projector out of common household materials. 
Check out more details for my class on Outschool- Solar Eclipse Science: Build Your Own Solar Eclipse Projector! here. (Even better, you may be able to enroll for FREE with my referral code or at a discount with my coupon code. You will find the codes and details here.

Outschool class build your own solar eclipse projector

When and Where to View Total Solar Eclipse 2024

On April 8th, 2024 the solar eclipse will pass over Mexico, the United States and Canada. The eclipse will reach Mexico's Pacific coast shortly after 11:00 AM, PDT. States in the U.S. that will experience a total eclipse include: Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. 
You can learn more about the path and the timing for the total eclipse here on NASA's solar eclipse site.
You can also research when the eclipse will be arriving to your location on the Great American Eclipse site.
Even if you are not in the path of totality, you will witness a partial eclipse in any of the 48 contiguous states. It's sure to be a fascinating event! 

2024 Total Solar Eclipse NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio
credit: NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio

During the Solar Eclipse

During the total eclipse you will see the sky darken and it will seem like night time. The birds and other animals will stop making noise as if night has come. What a strange and beautiful experience!

Some people may witness the "diamond ring effect" which occurs just a few seconds before the Moon completely covers the Sun. For just a second there is a a ring shape and a flash of bright light on one side of it. Pink or reddish flickers are solar prominences, or little bursts of hot material that shoot out from the Sun.

If you will view a partial eclipse you will see the Moon's shadow pass over a portion of the Sun.
Eclipse Progression from Batam, Indonesia