Your total solar eclipse guide, from fun facts to DIY viewing tips

The solar eclipse 2024 path of totality crossing the United States — Photo courtesy of NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio

All eyes will be on the sky on April 8, as North Americans observe the solar eclipse. To help readers prepare, we have assembled this guide with answers to your most frequently asked questions.

What is a total solar eclipse?

A solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between Earth and the sun, casting a shadow on a portion of Earth and blocking out the light, either partially or fully. It becomes a total solar eclipse when the face of the sun is completely blocked by the moon, creating the appearance of dusk or dawn.

How rare is the 2024 solar eclipse?

You might be wondering if it’s worth traveling to a location along the path of totality to witness this total eclipse. While a total solar eclipse occurs somewhere on Earth every 18 months, most occur over the ocean, with very few people around to witness them.

There won’t be another total solar eclipse visible from the continental United States until August 23, 2044. Even then, the totality of it will be visible only to those in Montana, South Dakota, and North Dakota.

Check out more eclipse history, folklore, and science with these 10 fascinating solar eclipse facts you can share with friends.

What is the path of totality for this eclipse?

A solar eclipse’s path of totality traces the locations where viewers will see the moon fully eclipse the sun.

The 2024 solar eclipse’s path of totality within the United States will begin in Eagle Pass, Texas, and travel up to Maine, passing through cities like San Antonio, Austin, and Dallas, Texas; Little Rock, Arkansas; Indianapolis, Indiana; Dayton and Cleveland, Ohio; Erie, Pennsylvania; Buffalo and Rochester, New York; and Burlington, Vermont.

With so much ground covered by the 2024 total solar eclipse, the majority of the United States’ population will be located within a 250-mile drive of the path of totality. Cities and towns within the path of totality are planning to celebrate the eclipse with a variety of events, including concerts, festivals, and science fairs.

Check out this roundup of the most exciting events and best places to see the solar eclipse.

How can I safely view the eclipse?

It’s imperative to protect your eyes with solar eclipse glasses (not just sunglasses), but you shouldn’t stop there. If you plan to view the eclipse through a telescope or take eclipse photos with your smartphone or camera, you also need protection for your devices.

Discover everything you need to know about safely viewing the eclipse here.

Buyer beware! There are a lot of fraudulent products on the market. Don’t be fooled. NASA and the American Astronomical Society have put together a list of approved products to ensure consumers are buying eclipse glasses and filters that pass muster.

If you don’t have access to a pair of eclipse glasses, the next best thing is to use objects to project the eclipse onto surfaces around you. From colanders and Ritz crackers to pinhole viewers, these are the best DIY tips for safely viewing a solar eclipse.

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