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Total Eclipse -- What's it all About & FAQ's (courtesy of NASA Solar System Exploration)

What makes the total solar eclipse unique?

A total solar eclipse happens when the Moon passes between the Sun and Earth and completely blocks the face of the Sun. People located near the center of the Moon’s shadow when it hits Earth will experience a total eclipse. The sky will become very dark, as if it were dawn or dusk. During a total solar eclipse, if skies are clear, people can see the Sun’s outer atmosphere, the corona, with their own eyes. The corona is otherwise too dim to see against the bright face of the Sun. A total solar eclipse is the only type of solar eclipse where viewers can momentarily remove their eclipse glasses (not the same as ordinary sunglasses) for this brief period of time when the Moon is completely blocking the Sun. This is what will happen in the U.S. on April 8, 2024.​


How long will the 2024 total solar eclipse last?

The longest duration of totality is 4 minutes, 28 seconds, near Torreón, Mexico. Most places along the centerline (path of totality) will see a totality duration between 3.5 and 4 minutes.


What does the path of totality mean?

The path of totality is where observers will see the Moon completely cover the Sun.


How much will daylight change during a total solar eclipse?

In the path of totality, where the Moon completely covers the Sun, the sky will become dark, as if it were dawn or dusk. For those who only experience a partial solar eclipse, the sky will appear slightly darker than it was before the eclipse, depending on how much the Moon blocks the Sun in their location.


How big of a temperature will you experience during a total solar eclipse?

You can expect the temperature to drop about 10 degrees Fahrenheit (5 degrees Celsius) depending on the humidity and cloud cover at your location.


Why is it not safe to look at the Sun even when only a small part of it is visible?

The rods and cones in the human retina are very sensitive to light. Normally during daylight conditions, the iris contracts so that only a small, safe amount of light passes through the lens and then reaches the retina. However, the Sun’s surface is so bright that even a thin sliver of its light can still damage the eye if you were to look directly at it. When exposed to direct sunlight, retinal cells will become damaged, sometimes permanently. This can happen even after a quick glance at the Sun so it is very important to never look at the Sun directly. To look at the Sun, use solar viewing glasses or a property-equipped telescope.


How rare are total solar eclipses?

During the 5,000-year period between 2000 BCE to 3000 CE, Earth will experience 11,898 eclipses of the Sun: 4,200 partial eclipses, 3,956 annular eclipses, 3,173 total eclipses and 569 hybrid eclipses. That means that every 1,000 years there are 840 partial eclipses, 791 annular eclipses, 635 total eclipses, and 114 hybrid eclipses. That works out to 2-3 solar eclipses of all kinds each year, and about 2 total solar eclipses every 3 years.

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