Captured from Madras, Oregon, the Aug. 21, 2017, total solar eclipse unveils the Moon as the black circle at the center, surrounded by ethereal white streams of the Sun’s outer atmosphere, known as the corona.
On April 8, a celestial spectacle awaits as the Moon’s shadow gracefully traverses the United States, treating millions to the mesmerizing display of a total solar eclipse. Fond recollections of the awe-inspiring event on Aug. 21, 2017, resurface as enthusiasts eagerly prepare. In 2017, a staggering 215 million U.S. adults, constituting 88% of the population, witnessed the solar eclipse firsthand or through electronic means.
They marveled as the Moon delicately obscured portions or the entirety of the Sun’s radiant countenance. The upcoming eclipse in 2024 holds the promise of heightened excitement, driven by distinctions in its trajectory, timing, and scientific exploration. Nature’s celestial ballet continues to captivate, inviting us to witness the harmonious dance of celestial bodies.
2024 Total Solar Eclipse to Feature Wider and More Populated Path of Totality.
The upcoming total solar eclipse on April 8, 2024, will feature a wider path of totality compared to the eclipse in 2017. The Moon’s closer proximity to Earth during this event will result in a broader path ranging from 108 to 122 miles wide, covering more ground than the 2017 eclipse, which ranged from about 62 to 71 miles wide. Moreover, the 2024 eclipse path will traverse more cities and densely populated areas, making it accessible to a larger audience. An estimated 31.6 million people live in the path of totality this year, compared to 12 million in 2017.
Additionally, approximately 150 million people live within 200 miles of the path of totality. While residing within the path is not necessary to witness the eclipse, 99% of people in the United States will have the opportunity to observe either the partial or total eclipse from their locations in April. All contiguous U.S. states, as well as parts of Alaska and Hawaii, will experience at least a partial solar eclipse.
Longer Time in Totality Anticipated for Upcoming Solar Eclipse.
In April, the upcoming total solar eclipse is anticipated to surpass the 2017 event’s duration. Seven years ago, the longest totality occurred near Carbondale, Illinois, lasting 2 minutes, 42 seconds. This time, totality will extend up to 4 minutes, 28 seconds, approximately 25 minutes northwest of Torreón, Mexico. Progressing into Texas, the center of the solar eclipse’s path will witness about 4 minutes, 26 seconds of totality, with durations exceeding 4 minutes extending as far north as Economy, Indiana. Even as the eclipse transitions into Canada, it will persist for up to 3 minutes, 21 seconds.
In a total solar eclipse, the duration of totality is at its maximum near the center of the path widthwise and gradually diminishes towards the edges. However, individuals eager to witness totality need not be precisely positioned at the center, as the time in totality diminishes slowly until approaching the edge. This allows enthusiasts a generous viewing experience even if they are slightly off-center during the celestial event.
Anticipating Heightened Solar Activity and Dynamic Displays in the 2024 Solar Eclipse.
Some prominences are seen as the Moon begins to move off the Sun during the total solar eclipse on Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, above Madras, Oregon.
Approximately every 11 years, the Sun undergoes a magnetic field reversal, initiating a cycle of heightened and diminished solar activity. The periods of solar minimum, characterized by reduced solar eruptions, give way to solar maximum, marked by increased solar activity. In 2017, the Sun was approaching solar minimum, offering viewers of the total eclipse a stunning but simpler corona with streamers confined to equatorial regions.
In contrast, the 2024 solar eclipse coincides with or near solar maximum, presenting a more complex, magnetically tangled appearance, with streamers likely visible throughout the corona. Observers may also have an enhanced chance to witness prominences—bright, pink curls or loops extending from the Sun. With favorable timing, there’s even a possibility of witnessing a coronal mass ejection, a significant eruption of solar material, during the eclipse.
2024 Solar Eclipse Unveils Expanded Scientific Research, Leveraging New Instruments and Space Missions.
In 2024, NASA is actively supporting multiple research endeavors, building on the findings of the 2017 eclipse. Led by researchers from diverse academic institutions, these projects employ various instruments, including cameras on high-altitude research planes and ham radios, to study the Sun and its impacts on Earth. Instruments launched during the 2023 annular solar eclipse on sounding rockets will be redeployed in the upcoming total solar eclipse.
Notably, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe and ESA and NASA’s Solar Orbiter, launched post-2017, will offer insights directly from the Sun’s corona, aligning with terrestrial observations and fostering a comprehensive understanding. To explore more about the 2024 total solar eclipse and safe viewing practices, visit NASA’s eclipse website.