An Eclipse Glimpse Ahead
2022-06-23 / Diana Yoder / Eclipse
On April 8, 2022, I sat in my office and stared out the window. The sky simply could not make up its mind. First it was sunny, then the clouds rolled in and I heard the tinkling of rain on my window. A few minutes later, the Sun was back and bright. This continued throughout the day and I could not help but to think about what the weather will be like in 730 days. Or, two years from now.
You see, my home in Ohio will be directly in the path of totality during the Great American Eclipse of April 8, 2024. A tough time of year for clear skies. Some of you might think I’m crazy for worrying about the weather two years from now, but it’s been lurking in the back of my mind ever since August 21, 2017. I will never forget that day: I saw my first Total Solar Eclipse.
Ever since then, I have wanted to see another. The experience was truly singular and I cannot recommend it enough. However, most of us don’t have thousands of dollars lying around to travel the world to experience one. Since 2017, there have been three total solar eclipses across the world: In South America in 2019 and 2020, and Antarctica in 2021. There will even be one just off the coast of Australia in 2023!
With this many opportunities, you would think it wouldn’t be a big deal to see one. South America isn’t THAT far from Ohio, right? Someone in Chile can look at the same Lunar eclipse I am. We are even in the same time zone! But the truth is that the majority of people who live in South America weren’t even able to see the total eclipses in 2019 or 2020, let alone a US based person like me.
The path of totality is a very narrow one. The path is made up of the Moon’s shadow being cast directly onto Earth. In 2017, this path was only 70 miles wide and ran the width of the continental US. This covered a very small percentage of the country. In 2024, we will have nearly twice as wide of a path: about 125 miles wide. This will result in longer sessions of totality and more locations able to witness the main event.
Despite the relatively high frequency of solar eclipses (every 18 months or so), the odds of a total solar eclipse being visible from your hometown are incredibly small. In fact, it is said that a total solar eclipse is visible from any one location every 375 years on average.1 The residents of Carbondale, Illinois might have something to say about that statistic, but it gives you an idea of the odds we are dealing with. (The people of Carbondale, Illinois are lucky enough to have been in the path for 2017 AND again in 2024.)
Now, I do want to note: a partial eclipse is nothing to sneeze at. These are much easier to find and last a great deal longer. Usually a few hours compared to the few minutes of totality. Partial eclipses are also extraordinary events and very worth seeing. But you can’t really compare a partial to a total eclipse. It would be like comparing listening to a movie’s soundtrack, to watching the movie in Imax. I love a good soundtrack! I grew up with the Harry Potter CDs lulling me to sleep every night. But watching a movie on a giant screen, with surround sound, a luxury seat, and all the snacks you could want…. Is another experience entirely. It’s full body, just like totality.
During totality, you are flooded with different sounds and sights. From the wind picking up and the air cooling off, to the crickets chirping and the birds roosting; everything around you changes.
I remember getting a quick glimpse of the Moon’s shadow racing towards me as the last sliver of sunlight disappeared behind the Moon. And then the solar corona burst into view. That sight was magnificent enough to distract me for the entirety of the approximately two minutes of totality we were given, but I had to tear my eyes away from that view to look for the planets Mars and Venus nearby and the star Regulus just to the side of the Sun and Moon. The viewing wasn’t perfect with such a short period of totality, but the twilight sky visible on that summer afternoon was enough of a sight to see. Not to mention the 360 degree sunset that glittered off the distant clouds around me.
Many of these sights and sounds will be available during totality no matter what the clouds are doing overhead. The animals well sense the darkness coming and react appropriately. Of course the sky may not be visible, but the wind, temperature, and light levels are still likely to change unless it happens to be the stormiest of days. A few stray clouds will by no means ruin the event.
So mark your calendars and put in your PTO requests for April 8, 2024. It will be a day to remember no matter the weather. For more details about seeing the eclipse in YOUR location, check out this website: Time and Date: April 8th 2024 Solar Eclipse
Now what about the Annular Solar Eclipse on October 14th 2023? Well, that’s a whole other story…
To learn more about the different types of eclipses, how they happen, and how you can learn more with Digitalis’ Nightshade Next Generation software, check out the upcoming post, “Visualizing Eclipses: How to teach (and learn) an out of this world concept.”
1. AstronomyBoy.com, Jeff DeTray from. “Total Solar Eclipses: How Often Do They Happen?” Almanac.com, 12 Nov. 2021, https://www.almanac.com/content/total-solar-eclipses-how-often-do-they-happen.