Solar eclipse 2024: Where and how to view the rare orbit hitting the US

A solar eclipse will hit North America on April 8, 2024, with millions of Americans already gearing up for the rare event.

The line of totality — or where there will be complete sun coverage — will span 15 states, but a partial eclipse will appear in all continental U.S. states, according to NASA.

The eclipse route will travel from Mexico, arching northeast from Texas to Ohio before reaching Canada and going back into Maine.

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The best times to view will vary per location. 

Those in the San Antonio, Texas, area will see totality around 1:35 p.m. CT; in upstate New York, that situation will occur around 3:25 p.m. EST.

The path of totality and partial contours crossing the U.S. for the 2024 total solar eclipse occurring on April 8, 2024, as mapped by NASA. (NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio)

‘Pretty good’ eclipse

Dr. William Blair, an astrophysicist at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, shared his excitement about the “special” occurrence in an interview with Fox News Digital.

“It’s really an exciting event,” he said. “And to have two of them this close together, from 2017 until now, cutting through the heartland of our country, is a nice opportunity for folks.”

“To have it happen any place on the Earth at any given time is pretty unusual.”

Blair, who recently retired from working on the James Webb Telescope space exploration project, called out that this solar eclipse will be a “pretty good” one based on the orbit and distance of the moon.

Since the moon is currently a little closer to the Earth, he said,the shadow cast on the sun will be a bit wider and the overall eclipse will last longer.

A partial solar eclipse is seen in San Salvador

A partial solar eclipse is seen in San Salvador, El Salvador, on Oct. 14, 2023. (Camilo Freedman/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

The 2024 eclipse is estimated to last for more than four minutes. 

By comparison, the last solar eclipse in the U.S. in 2017 was about 2½ minutes long.

A solar eclipse occurs when the sun, the moon and the Earth are “almost” perfectly aligned, Blair said.

“Most of the time at New Moon, the moon’s shadow either goes below the Earth or above the Earth by just a little bit, so we don’t get an eclipse every time the moon comes around,” he said. 

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“But every once in a while … if you get a new moon at the right time, then the moon’s shadow can go across that vast area of space and actually make a little stripe across the Earth. And that’s what we see as a solar eclipse.”

The next solar eclipse in the U.S. will occur more than 20 years from now, on Aug. 23, 2044, according to Blair and NASA – even though solar eclipses can happen multiple times a year around the world.

bill blair astrophysicist

Bill Blair is a research professor and astrophysicist in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Johns Hopkins University. (Bill Blair)

“But to have it happen any place on the Earth at any given time is pretty unusual,” Blair said.

In an article, NASA described solar eclipses as a “convenient coincidence” based on the scale of the sun and moon.

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“The sun’s diameter is about 400 times larger than the moon’s, and the sun is almost 400 times farther away from us than the moon is,” NASA wrote. 

“This combination makes the sun and moon appear nearly the same size in our sky, setting up a spectacular show when they align.”

Getting the best view

Blair called solar eclipses “pretty amazing,” since everything must be “so carefully aligned” — and to witness one of them is “spectacular,” he said.

“If you get in the zone of totality, which is really in the deep shadow of the moon, it really illuminates the corona, which is the region … around the bright disk of the sun,” he added.

solar eclipse time sequence

A time-sequence composite is shown of the total solar eclipse that occurred on Aug. 21, 2017. (Alan Dyer/VW Pics/UIG via Getty Images)

“When that sun gets covered up, we can see the corona, and it’s just a magical sight.”

Blair added that the sun is currently in “an active phase of its 11-year cycle (lots of sunspots and activity on its surface).”

“That means there will probably be a lot of structure visible in the corona,” he said. 

“That is, instead of just a hazy halo of light around the eclipsed sun, there may be streamers or other structures visible.”

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The astrophysicist emphasized that just getting close to the line of totality won’t ensure the best views of the eclipse.

“A 99% coverage eclipse and a total eclipse … are totally different experiences,” he said.

solar eclipse seen with glasses

A total solar eclipse is seen in California on Aug. 21, 2017. (Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

The best view of any eclipse always depends on the weather, according to NASA, as clear skies will permit a full view of the sun and moon. 

Safe viewing of an eclipse

When viewing a solar eclipse, it’s important to use protective eyewear to avoid direct exposure to the sun before or after the event.

Blair squashed the “confusion” around direct exposure to solar eclipses, noting that it’s safe to look at it during the period of “totality” since the sun is completely covered.

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“You can look at it with cameras. You can look at it with the naked eye, or with binoculars during that four minutes of totality,” he said. “But that’s really the only time you can look at it without any eye protection.”

“Even if just a little bit of the sun’s surface is uncovered, the sun is 5,500 degrees … You’re looking at something that’s like a blast furnace with your bare eye.”

solar eclipse viewing with glasses

People observe the annular solar eclipse at the Luis Enrique Erro Planetarium of the National Polytechnic Institute in Mexico City on Oct. 14, 2023. (Luis Barron/Eyepix Group/Future Publishing via Getty Images)

Blair recommended wearing protective eyewear that’s sold specifically for solar eclipse events, or other dark glass eye coverings, like a welder’s helmet.

NASA reiterated on its website that it is never safe to look directly at the sun without “specialized eyewear for solar viewing.”

Solar Eyeglasses, a California-based seller of AAS-approved and ISO-certified solar eclipse glasses, reported a 2,422% uptick in revenue and 2,641% increase in units sold in 2024.

Even a brief stare at a partially eclipsed sun without special filters can “damage your eyes badly,” according to an expert. (iStock)

“We see the eclipse enthusiasm is real,” a Solar Eyeglasses spokesperson told Fox News Digital. “Many who missed the October eclipse are eagerly anticipating this one.”

Even a brief stare at a partially eclipsed sun without special filters can “damage your eyes badly,” according to Solar Eyeglasses.

“[It] can hurt your macular tissue (central retina), resulting in a condition known as solar retinopathy or even permanent blindness.”

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The spokesperson reminded the public that regular sunglasses “won’t protect your eyes” from the sun and should not be used to view the eclipse “at any stage as they’re not designed for this purpose and are not safe for blocking the intense rays of the sun.”

“Remember the timing,” the spokesperson said. “As soon as the sun starts to reappear after totality, immediately put your eclipse glasses or viewer back on to prevent eye damage.”

“It’s going to be quite a while before we have another one nearby.”

Solar Eyeglasses suggested adding an extra layer of protection for children by using paper plates to block extra light seeping in from the sides.

An alternative method, Blair suggested, is to look through an object like a pasta spoon or colander with holes punched into it that can “show you the partial phases of the eclipse.”

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“You can actually see [the phases] projected down onto the ground or onto a sheet of paper or whatever you want to use,” he shared. “You can see many, many little eclipses that way.”

“I encourage folks [to] get into the zone of totality,” he added. “It’s going to be quite a while before we have another one nearby.”

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