Historic Total Solar Eclipse on Monday April 8, 2024 – Get Free Protective Eye Wear

Map showing the predicted 115-mile wide path of totality of the solar eclipse from Texas to Maine and SE Canada. (Credit: NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio.)

By Chaitram Aklu – FRGS

Monday, April 8 promises to be a day of great excitement for millions as a total solar eclipse travels a path some 115 miles wide from Northern Mexico to SE Canada from Ontario to Newfoundland. Over 32 million will be directly in its umbra (direct center of the moon’s shadow).

An information flyer titled: How to safely view the April 8, 2024, TOTAL SOLAR ECLIPSE, endorsed by several scientific organizations, including the National Science Foundation and a free pair of protective eye filters are being distributed for free at public libraries to anyone who requests them in person.

An eclipse occurs when a heavenly body moves into the shadow of another as they revolve around the sun. According to the American Astronomical Society total solar eclipses occur frequently, about once a year but their path is very narrow on earth’s surface and thus out of view of most people.

Earth inhabitants, who also include animals, experience two types of eclipses – solar and lunar which have been observed and studied for hundreds of years, studies which have significantly added to our knowledge. Aristotle is said to have made his conclusion that the earth is spherical based on his observations of the shadow cast during an eclipse.
There are three types of solar eclipse. The first is a total solar eclipse which can be observed from a small area on Earth when the moon is closest to Earth. This area is the center of the moon’s shadow – umbra (as it blocks out the sun) when the sun, moon and Earth are in perfect alignment. There is total darkness as if night falls. This year’s total eclipse will last 4 1/2 minutes, longer than the usual 2 1/2 minutes. People observing in the umbra zone are the only ones who can look directly at the sun and not have their eyesight severely damaged or go completely blind.

How to Safely View the April 8, 2024, total solar eclipse. (Source: NASA information Flyer).

Next there is partial solar eclipse which happens when the sun, moon and Earth are not in perfect alignment and is recognized as the sun having a dark shadow (moon’s penumbral shadow) on only a small area of its surface and is visible from a much larger geographical region covering most of North America. As a result the April 8 partial eclipse will be seen in all of the 48 contiguous states. Viewers must wear protective eye wear to avoid damaging their eyes or going completely blind.

The third type of solar eclipse, the annular solar eclipse occurs when the moon is farthest from Earth, giving it the appearance of being smaller. It looks like a large dark disk blocking a brighter disk, giving the appearance of a lighted ring around the dark moon.
Scientists from NASA and other science agencies and organizations study eclipses from various vantage points – land, ocean, atmosphere and space using planes and sun orbiting probes to gather data which they later analyze and put to use where practical.

Although total solar eclipses happen about once every year, they can only be viewed along a narrow path of Earth’s surface. The excitement this year is more intense for the April 8 event because of its longer duration (4 1/2 minutes) of the total eclipse, a much darker sky, visible to a lot more people from outside their homes, and greater expectation of what will actually be seen. Hundreds of thousands will travel to the zone of total eclipse for the experience.

The American Museum of Natural History advises that while New York City residents are not in the path of totality, they will be able to see the partial solar eclipse. The moon’s wider shadow or penumbra will cover up to 90% of the sun at 3:25 pm. The actual start of the eclipse will be at 2:10 pm and reach maximum coverage at 3:25 pm. It will be over by 4:36 pm.

The last Total solar eclipse to traverse North America was August 21, 2017.
If you miss this year’s historic spectacle, don’t worry, there will be another one crossing North America in the next 20 years – in 2044!