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Astronomers say it’s time to make travel plans for the 2024 total solar eclipse

A composite image of the 2017 total solar eclipse from Madras, Oregon.
Michael Beckage/David Schleicher/Lowell Observatory
A composite image of the 2017 total solar eclipse from Madras, Oregon.

A total solar eclipse will cross through United States one year from Saturday. Astronomers say it’s a rare, unearthly experience expected to attract hundreds of thousands of travelers from around the world… and people who want to see it should start making plans now. KNAU’s Melissa Sevigny spoke with Kevin Schindler of Lowell Observatory about what to expect.

We’re about a year out from a solar eclipse that’s going to pass through the United States. Where could people actually go see this eclipse?

This is what’s great about this eclipse, is that it’s going to be visible from a wide swath across North America. In the United States alone, it’s going to pass through something like 13 states. It will first enter the United States in Texas and then the center of the path of totality will trend toward the northeast and exit the United States in Maine.

What exactly is the path of totality?

What’s happening is, a total solar eclipse can only happen during new moon, when the moon is between the sun and the earth… It’s just a very narrow path where the shadow of the sun is projected on Earth. We’re talking about miles across…. So there’s a band, and the closer to the center of that band you are, the longer totality will last.

Logistically, we’re talking about potentially hundreds of thousands of people all moving into this narrow little band to see this event. What do you suggest people start thinking about now, a year out from the eclipse?

Certainly the location you want to go to…. One thing to consider when going to view it is that it’s April 8, so weather certainly could be lousy in a lot of places. One good thing to do is look at past weather patterns for particular areas…. Lowell Observatory is working with the City of Waco, Baylor University, and Warner Brother’s Discovery to host an event in Waco, Texas, because that’s one of the first large cities that is going to be able to see totality, plus past weather patterns; April 8, there’s a better probability of good weather there than in my hometown in Ohio. That’s just the nature of the weather at that time.


And so the first thing is to figure out where to go… and then the other thing is deciding what you’re going to do—if you’re going to go for a few days you better look at getting a hotel sooner than later.

For folks in Arizona, it’s a fairly big time commitment and lots of planning in advance, why do you think they should go see it anyway?

I’ve had the fortune to see one, and it really was life altering. When it was happening, it really makes you stop and everything else is turned off…. It’s a visceral thing, where it’s not just seeing it and appreciating that all of the sun is being blocked, but other things like the different features of the sun you can see: like seeing the corona of the sun that you can never see otherwise. Depending on where you are, you can hear—the sun darkens, and you can hear wildlife that you normally doesn’t come out until nighttime… You can see a sunset wherever you look; all around the horizon there’s a sunset. It’s phenomenal. The temperatures cool down…. You wonder, is it worth 4 minutes and 13 seconds—and that length depends on where you see it—but to me it most certainly is. Because it is such a unique experience…. Really it’s one of those things everyone should experience if they can.

Kevin Schindler, thank you so much for speaking with me.

Great, thanks so much.

See a map of the 2024 path of totality.

See Lowell Observatory's eclipse website - tickets on sale now.

Melissa joined KNAU's team in 2015 to report on science, health, and the environment. Her work has appeared nationally on NPR and been featured on Science Friday. She grew up in Tucson, Arizona, where she fell in love with the ecology and geology of the Sonoran desert.