Three years from at this time, on Monday, April 8, 2024, greater than half a billion individuals throughout North America will possible take just a few moments out of their every day routines, and gaze up into the sky to get a view of one of nature’s nice exhibits: an eclipse of the solar.
And those that are lucky to be positioned alongside a slim path stretching throughout northern Mexico by components of 15 U.S. states, there’ll come the chance to what many have come to name probably the most spectacular of celestial roadshows — a complete photo voltaic eclipse.
Many readers definitely will bear in mind “The Great American Eclipse of 2017.” That occasion acquired appreciable media consideration and rightly so. It was the primary complete eclipse of the solar to be seen from the contiguous (48) United States since 1979, the primary since 1918 to go from coast-to-coast and the primary complete photo voltaic eclipse to be seen from the United States within the twenty first century. And it was additionally the very first time in fashionable historical past that the trail of totality was seen solely from throughout the confines of the United States and no different nation.
Video: Total Solar Eclipse in April 2024 – See the trail of totality
Related: Total photo voltaic eclipse 2024: Here’s what you want to know
A photo voltaic eclipse spectacle
It was a tremendous expertise for all who noticed the sky instantly darken to mid-twilight ranges and with it, the sudden look of stars and planets in what solely moments earlier was a daytime sky.
Then of course, there was the unbelievable corona, the outer environment of the solar, seen solely throughout these treasured moments when the disk of the solar is utterly obscured by the moon. And in just a few locations across the moon’s darkish limb, prominences — pinkish tongues of glowing hydrogen fuel — had been additionally evident. And as the primary rays of rising daylight streaked previous the rugged tough edge of the moon, a “diamond ring” was briefly created, signaling an abrupt finish to “The Greatest Show on Earth.”
But the very best is but to return. For as spectacular as “The Great American Eclipse of 2017” was, a fair higher eclipse is on its manner in 2024.
“The Great North American Solar Eclipse,” which can begin in Mexico, cross into Texas, then heads northeast into the Ohio River Valley, upstate New York, Quebec, Canada and New England, lastly exiting the continent by the Canadian Maritimes. And it isn’t too early to begin planning to see it!
Related: The Most Amazing Photos of the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse
A standout amongst complete eclipses
Since the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the darkish shadow cone of the moon — known as the umbra — from the place the spectacle of a complete eclipse could be considered, has swept throughout components of the decrease 48 states solely 21 instances. The length of totality for these eclipses has ranged from just one second (April 28, 1930) to an extremely lengthy 5 minutes and 20 seconds (June 24, 1778). The common length of totality for all twenty-one instances comes out to be 2 minutes 12 seconds.
For the eclipse of August 21, 2017, the utmost length of totality lasted 2 minutes 40 seconds, which was almost a half minute longer than the US common.
But on April 8, 2024, the utmost length of totality will final so long as 4 minutes and 26 seconds (over southwest Texas). That’s 135 seconds longer than the US common and 40 p.c longer than the utmost length of the 2017 eclipse.
Related: The best photo voltaic eclipses in U.S. historical past
In reality, of the 21 earlier totalities which have swept throughout the present contiguous US boundaries, solely two surpass the 2024 eclipse in phrases of length of totality: the aforementioned eclipse of 1778 and the eclipse of June 16, 1806 (4 minutes 52 seconds). This latter eclipse is well-known for the observations made by José Joaquín de Ferrer, a Spanish astronomer who was the primary to coin the time period corona” for the halo of light that surrounds the darkened sun during totality, and by James Fenimore Cooper, who recounted his own experience witnessing this eclipse from Cooperstown, New York in an autobiographical vignette.
The width of the totality path of the 2024 eclipse will also be exceptional: The shadow path for the previous 21 U.S. eclipses averaged about 93 miles (150 kilometers) wide. In 2017, it was about 71 miles (115 km) wide, but in 2024 the path of totality will be considerably larger, measuring 124 miles (200 km) across.
A big audience!
Usually, the path of most total solar eclipses tends to have a perverse habit in sweeping over remote parts of the Earth or over wide stretches of ocean, and avoiding large population centers. Not so in 2024.
In Mexico, the cities of Mazatlán (population 503,000), Durango (pop. 655,000) and Torreon (pop. 735,000) are within the totality path. In the United States, the largest population center will be Dallas, Texas (pop. 1.3 million), followed by Austin (pop. 951,000), Indianapolis, Indiana (pop. 864,000), Cleveland, Ohio (pop. 385,000), Buffalo, New York (pop. 256,000) and Rochester (pop. 207,000).
And there are many other big cities such as San Antonio, Texas, St. Louis, Missouri, Louisville, Kentucky, Cincinnati and Columbus in Ohio, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania that are less than a few hours’ drive from the zone of totality.
The largest city that will witness the total eclipse will be in Canada: Montreal, Quebec, (pop. 1.8 million).
Interestingly, over the lower Ohio Valley, the totality paths of the 2017 and 2024 intersect. On average, a specific geographic location is treated to a total solar eclipse approximately once every 375 years. But Carbondale, Illinois — which has christened itself as the “Eclipse Crossroads” city — will again experience totality in 2024, less than 7 years after having experienced the total eclipse of 2017!
According to Canadian meteorologist Jay Anderson, who has spent many years researching the climatological conditions in advance of upcoming solar eclipses: “April is a month of transition throughout the continent, with winter storms regularly giving solution to the convective buildups of spring and summer time. In Mexico, the winter dry season is in its final month earlier than the summer time rains start. Over the United States, southern components of the monitor are already effectively into the thunderstorm season, whereas to the north, spring storms and occasional snowfalls nonetheless trace of the departing winter. In Maritime Canada, the final of the winter snow has but to soften and recent snowfalls are a menace with each climate system.”
The best probabilities of good weather are in Mexico, where cloud coverage ranges anywhere from only around 20%, increasing to right around 50% at the Texas border. In contrast to these conditions, the weather outlook across the United States is marginal, if not downright unfavorable. Climatological records indicate that average cloud cover increases from roughly 50- 60% in Texas, northeast to the Missouri-Illinois border, then jumps to nearly 80 percent at the Indiana-Ohio border. Near and along the Great Lakes, cloud cover drops back to around 60-65%, before again rising above 80% for Quebec, northern New England and the Maritimes. You can get more details at the Eclipsophile website here.
But even in the most pessimistic regions, one need only remember the famous aphorism attributed to science fiction writer, Robert Heinlein: “Climate is what you count on, however climate is what you get!”
Indeed, April weather in the United States and southern Canada is much more variable than in Mexico, so that at any location there is some hope of very clear skies on eclipse day.
And as we get closer to that special day, Space.com will provide detailed coverage for prospective eclipse chasers, so mark your calendars and stay tuned!
Joe Rao serves as an instructor and guest lecturer at New York’s Hayden Planetarium. He writes about astronomy for Natural History magazine, the Farmers’ Almanac and other publications. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.