Witness the breathtaking beauty of a complete solar eclipse this April.
As winter slowly starts to make its way out the door, Houston is set to welcome an exciting number of annual events and celebrations, spanning from the Houston Rodeo festivities to a brand new large-scale food festival this spring.
Shortly after the latter, we can anticipate another remarkable celestial display less than three weeks later.
Scheduled for Monday, April 8th, 2024, is a total solar eclipse widely referred to as “the Great North American Solar Eclipse” due to its anticipated remarkable duration and visibility.
What’s a solar eclipse?
A solar eclipse takes place when the Sun, Moon, and Earth align, with the Moon positioned between the Earth and the Sun, obstructing sunlight and creating a shadow on Earth.
In contrast, a lunar eclipse occurs when Earth comes between the Sun and the Moon, causing the Moon to enter the darkest part of Earth’s shadow.
Solar eclipses come in three distinct types: partial eclipses, annular eclipses, and total eclipses.
What’s a total solar eclipse?
When the moon fails to align directly with the sun and only covers a portion of it, it results in a partial solar eclipse. The misalignment produces a crescent-shaped sun, partially concealed by the moon.
On the other hand, if the moon and sun align directly but the sun is not completely hidden by the moon because of the moon being at its farthest point from Earth, and consequently smaller in appearance, an annular solar eclipse occurs. This creates a ‘ring of fire’ effect, with the sun encircling the moon.
Conversely, a total eclipse occurs when the moon completely obscures the sun, turning day into night. Total solar eclipses are infrequent and the outcome of extraordinary serendipity, as the sun is about 400 times larger than the moon and approximately 400 times more distant from Earth.
When and where will the next total solar eclipse happen?
The approaching total solar eclipse is scheduled for Monday, April 8, 2024.
North America is set to witness the most significant aspect of the total solar eclipse, as the moon obscures the sun’s face along a path that traverses Mexico, the United States, and Canada. This event is being dubbed the “Great North American Solar Eclipse.”
The path of totality for the Great North American Solar Eclipse will stretch from Mexico through the Southeast United States and extend into East Canada.
As per NASA, the initial location in continental North America to witness totality will be Mexico’s Pacific coast, occurring around 11:07 a.m. PDT (1:07 p.m. CT). The eclipse will then exit continental North America along the Atlantic coast of Newfoundland, Canada, at 5:16 p.m. NDT (2:46 p.m. CT).
For Texas, the optimal moment to experience the total solar eclipse is around 1:40 p.m. CT. According to NASA, in Dallas, Texas, totality commences at 1:40 p.m., reaches its peak at 1:42 p.m. CT, and concludes at 1:44 p.m. CDT.
What makes the Great North American Total Eclipse special?
The April occurrence of the Great North American Total Eclipse holds distinct significance for several reasons.
Primarily, this eclipse on April 8 will reach an impressive maximum duration of 4 minutes and 28.2 seconds in certain regions. Over the past century, the maximum totality duration for 75 sampled solar eclipses averaged 3 minutes and 13 seconds. Any total solar eclipse lasting beyond 4 minutes is regarded as an exceptional celestial event.
Additionally, the extent of the eclipse’s impact is noteworthy. The previous “Great North American Eclipse” in 2017 traversed from coast to coast, captivating millions with a path of totality spanning 70 miles in width. In contrast, the eclipse on April 8th features a broader path of totality, spanning over 125 miles, making it visible to hundreds of millions.
“What distinguishes this celestial event is the emergence of the otherwise unseen outermost rays of the Sun, known as the corona. These rays radiate around the Moon, resembling a colossal halo of light that extends into space, reaching a distance up to five times the Sun’s diameter” the Farmers Almanac states. “While other types of eclipses may cast shadows and dim the sky, none quite match the awe-inspiring and otherworldly effect generated by a total solar eclipse.”
Learn more about the eclipse at science.nasa.gov.