On August 21, 2017, a total solar eclipse occurred. It fascinated most of North America because it had a band that spanned the contiguous United States from the West to the East Coast. Before that, no single solar eclipse was visible across the entirety of the United States since the early 1900s. If you missed the last one, you might wonder when is the next total solar eclipse. Friends, I’m so excited to say that it’s happening again. The 2024 Total Solar Eclipse is expected to cross North America, including passing over Mexico, the United States, and Canada on April 8, 2024. A natural phenomenon like the 2024 total solar eclipse is a great opportunity to teach about the solar system and maximize learning naturally.
2024 Total Solar Eclipse
The 2024 total solar eclipse is expected to eclipse the 2017 total solar eclipse in length of totality. The totality is expected to be nearly double that of 2017, lasting up to 4 minutes and 27 seconds! This is absolutely amazing. And viewers will have to wait another twenty years after that to see another one in the United States because the next total solar eclipse that can be seen from the contiguous United States will be on Aug. 23, 2044. <– yes, 2044! Don’t wait until the 2044 solar eclipse to enjoy solar eclipse activities!
Types of Solar Eclipses
You might be thinking, wait! I thought there is a solar eclipse every year. That is correct. However, the annular solar eclipse is not a total solar eclipse.
A partial solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the sun and Earth but the sun, moon, and earth are not perfectly lined up. A portion of the sun will appear to be covered, giving it a crescent shape. This is what is observed outside the path of totality during a total or annular solar eclipse.
In an annular solar eclipse, the moon passes between the sun and the earth. However, it is at or near its farthest point from Earth. Since the moon is farther away from Earth, it appears smaller than the sun and does not completely cover the sun.
A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the sun and Earth and completely blocks the face of the sun. These occur less frequently and are when the path of totality occurs. The path of totality is the strip where the moon’s shadow completely blocks the sun’s face and when it hits Earth will experience a total eclipse. In this area, the sky darkens, like it’s dawn or dusk. Those in the path of totality, or total solar eclipse, are able to observe the sun’s corona, which is its outer atmosphere. The sun’s corona is typically not visible because of the brilliance of sunlight. A total solar eclipse is the ONLY eclipse where people can temporarily remove their solar filter glasses, or eclipse glasses, for the brief period of time that is totality (usually 2-4 minutes in the center of the path) when the moon completely blocks the sun.
Annular eclipses are certainly worth viewing if you can manage a day’s travel and can get the time off. A total solar eclipse only happens a handful of times in a lifetime, so they are worth planning in advance for and whatever effort it takes to be able to observe them in the path of totality.
How to Prepare for the 2024 Total Solar Eclipse
We were so incredibly fortunate that we were able to view the 2017 total solar eclipse while visiting my parents. Their home was in the path of totality and we experienced a solid two minutes of total eclipse. The path of totality will cross their home again, and we’re hopeful to be able to visit them again during the next total solar eclipse. They should get about 2 minutes of total eclipse according to NASA’s 2024 Total Eclipse Information. We’ve already stocked up on our solar eclipse glasses.
Be sure to pick up your CE and ISO Certified Safe Shades for Direct Sun Viewing solar eclipse glasses FAR in advance. They tend to become more expensive the closer to the eclipse you get because they are harder to find! You want to make sure you and your family are viewing safely.
As we get ready, I thought I’d share some tips on how to prepare for the total solar eclipse of 2024 if you’re in North America.
Plan a Long Weekend
Submit your time off request now, if your permission requires it. And plan to make it a long weekend. The eclipse occurs on Monday. If you can swing taking Tuesday off, as well, do that. Because the end of the partial eclipse doesn’t occur until early afternoon, it could mean a long drive home if you’re traveling.
Get Solar Filters
First, and foremost, get those solar eclipse glasses. There are some rules to follow when selecting appropriate solar filters and you should beware of counterfeits. In 2017, multiple counterfeiters tried to profit off the solar eclipse by selling solar filter glasses that could not be verified as safe. Amazon even recalled some eclipse glasses because they weren’t able to confirm that they were protective. Don’t take any chances with your eyesight!
Solar filters should have:
- An ISO 12312-2:2015 certification – if it doesn’t, it will NOT protect your vision!
- The manufacturer’s name and address printed somewhere on the product – if it isn’t, they aren’t certifiable!
Do not use solar filters that are:
- Missing ISO certification information – you can ruin your vision!
- Torn, scratched, or have wrinkled lenses – again, protect your eyes at all costs.
- Coming loose from their frames – it could slip and you’d be sorry
- Made before 2015 or that have been opened for more than 3 years.
Speaking of solar filters, on October 14th, 2023, an annular eclipse (when the sun forms a ring around the moon) will cross the United States from Oregon to Texas. You need solar filters to safely view this eclipse, as well. You can view a complete list of the next 10 years’ worth of upcoming lunar and solar eclipses on timeanddate.com.
Remember, after viewing the sun with your solar filter, turn away from the sun before you remove them. Tell kids to close their eyes as they do, to minimize the risk of them pulling them off while it’s not safe to do so. Do not remove your solar filter while looking at the sun.
Find a Good Location
Take a look at the path of totality, figure out where to watch the next solar eclipse, and book your hotel now. I kid you not, I looked at one location and the hotel rooms in the surrounding area are already booked out. We’re hoping my parents will let us crash their pad again. It’ll make for a great family bonding time together.
Allow Plenty of Time for Driving
If you’re planning to stay in one place and drive to your viewing spot, you should know that officials are already predicting that many of the 200 million people who live within a day’s drive will flock to the path of totality. Traffic was a bear for many people with the 2017 eclipse. It could be worse for the 2024 eclipse because it isn’t expected to happen for another 20 years.
Know Your Eclipse Timeline
Knowing when the partial eclipse begins, when the totality begins and ends, and when the partial eclipse ends in your viewing area is paramount to a good eclipse viewing experience. You don’t want to have to use the bathroom or be stuck in a vehicle and totally miss it! You can check the path of totality on the NASA website or on nationaleclipse.com.
Gather with Friends and Family
One of the things that made the 2017 eclipse so memorable for us was that we were able to spend it with family!
Seeing the wonder on everyone’s faces when the total eclipse occurred is among my favorite memories. Then as the nighttime sounds suddenly rang out, the stillness was broken, and the sun came back out of hiding. Just spectacular.
Get a Camera Lens Filter
Do not look at the solar eclipse through your camera unless you have installed a proper camera solar filter. This applies even if you’re wearing solar filter glasses. The camera lens will concentrate the light and can damage your eyes, even through solar eclipse glasses. This also applies to telescopes and binoculars. Just don’t do it.
In all honesty, unless you’re a professional photographer, I recommend you skip the photos of the eclipse and just enjoy it. Rest assured, there will be plenty of photos in your Facebook feed.
Plan Other Fun Activities
Let’s face it, the solar eclipse doesn’t last a long time. From the start of the partial eclipse to totality to the end of the partial eclipse is less than three hours in most places, and even in the best spots, totality is less than five minutes. You’re going to want to learn about the planets in our solar system and plan other fun activities for the adults and the kids. You can find songs, crafts, activities, and related books and printables in my solar system article. Here are even more fun ideas to enjoy before, during, and after the next solar eclipse…
Plan Now for the 2024 Total Solar Eclipse
Even more fun ideas…
- Call your local astronomy club, science center, or planetarium and ask about upcoming eclipse activities.
- Make no-bake solar eclipse cookies.
- Get your copy of the Road Atlas for the Total Solar Eclipse of 2024.
- Observe animal activity during the eclipse – it can be interesting! During the last eclipse, the frogs and crickets got louder, the daytime songbirds decided to nap, and the squirrels were animated little things running all over the place.
Some blogging friends also have solar system activities to enjoy. Check these out:
I’ll probably add more resources as I find them, so be sure to check back!