Three years from today, on Monday, April 8, 2024, more than half a billion people in North America will likely take a few moments out of their daily routine and stare at the sky to see one of nature’s amazing shows: a solar eclipse.
And those lucky enough to be positioned along a narrow path that stretches across Northern Mexico through parts of 15 U.S. states will have the opportunity for what many have come to call the most spectacular celestial roadshows – a total of solar eclipse
Many readers will surely remember “The Great American Eclipse of 2017‘That event received a lot of media attention and rightly so. It was the first total solar eclipse to be visible from the contiguous (48) United States since 1979, the first since 1918 to travel from coast to coast, and the first total solar eclipse to be visible from the United States in the 21st century and it was also the very first time in modern history that the path of totality was visible only within the borders of the United States and no other country.
Video: Total Solar Eclipse in April 2024 – See the path of totality
Related: Total Solar Eclipse 2024: Here’s What You Need to Know
A solar eclipse
It was a great experience to anyone who saw the sky suddenly darken until mid-twilight and with it the sudden appearance of stars and planets in what was a daytime sky just moments earlier.
Then, of course, there was the incredible corona, the sun’s outer atmosphere, visible only during those precious moments when the sun’s disk is completely obscured by the moon. And in a few places around the moon’s dark limb prominences – pink tongues of glowing hydrogen gas – were also evident. And when the first rays of rising sunlight shot past the rough, rough edge of the moon, a ‘diamond ring’ was briefly created, bringing ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’ to an abrupt end.
But the best is yet to come. Because as spectacular as “The Great American Eclipse of 2017” was, there will be an even better solar eclipse in 2024.
“The Great North American Solar Eclipse,” which will begin in Mexico, traverses Texas, then heads northeast into the Ohio River Valley, New York State, Quebec, Canada, and New England, eventually exiting the continent through the Canadian Maritimes . And it’s not too early to make plans to see it!
Related: The most amazing photos of the 2017 total solar eclipse
A highlight among total eclipses
Since the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the moon’s dark shadow cone – called the umbra – from which the spectacle of a total solar eclipse can be viewed, has only been swept through parts of the lower 48 states 21 times. The total duration of these eclipses ranged from just one second (April 28, 1930) to an incredibly long 5 minutes and 20 seconds (June 24, 1778). The mean duration of totality for all twenty-one cases is 2 minutes and 12 seconds.
For the August 21, 2017 eclipse, the maximum duration of totality lasted 2 minutes and 40 seconds, which was nearly half a minute longer than the US average.
But on April 8, 2024, the maximum duration of totality is 4 minutes and 26 seconds (over southwest Texas). That is 135 seconds longer than the US average and 40 percent longer than the maximum duration of the 2017 solar eclipse
Related: Largest solar eclipses in US history.
In fact, of the 21 previous totalities that have crossed the current contiguous U.S. borders, only two exceed the 2024 eclipse in terms of totality duration: the aforementioned eclipse of 1778 and the eclipse of June 16, 1806 (4 minutes and 52 seconds). This latest eclipse is famous for the observations of José Joaquín de Ferrer, a Spanish astronomer who first used the term corona for the halo of light that surrounds the eclipsed sun during totality, and by James Fenimore Cooper, who shared his own experience with it. eclipse from Cooperstown, New York in an autobiographical vignette.
The width of the total 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 115 km wide, but in 2024 the path of totality will be significantly larger, with a diameter of 124 miles (200 km).
A big audience!
Usually, the path of most total solar eclipses tends to have a perverse habit of sweeping over remote parts of the Earth or across vast oceans, avoiding large centers of population. Not so in 2024.
In Mexico, the cities of Mazatlán (503,000 inhabitants), Durango (655,000 inhabitants) and Torreon (735,000 inhabitants) fall within the totality path. In the United States, the largest population center will be Dallas, Texas (1.3 million residents), followed by Austin (951,000 residents), Indianapolis, Indiana (864,000 residents), Cleveland, Ohio (385,000 residents), Buffalo, New York (256,000 inhabitants) and Rochester (207,000 inhabitants).
And there are many other major 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 to witness the total solar eclipse will be in Canada: Montreal, Quebec (population 1.8 million).
Interestingly, across the lower Ohio Valley, the 2017 and 2024 totality paths intersect. On average, a specific geographic location is treated to a total solar eclipse about once every 375 years. But Carbondale, Illinois – it has baptized itself as the city “Eclipse Crossroads” – will experience totality again in 2024, less than 7 years after experiencing the total eclipse of 2017!
According to Canadian meteorologist Jay Anderson, who has spent years researching the climatic conditions leading up to the coming solar eclipses: “April is a month of transition across the continent, with winter storms gradually giving way to the convective build-up of spring and summer. , the dry winter season is in the last month before the summer rains set in. Over the United States, the southern parts of the track are well into thunderstorm season, while in the north, spring storms and the occasional snowstorm still indicate the departure winter. In Maritime Canada, the last winter snow has yet to melt and fresh snowfall is a threat in any weather system. “
The best chances of good weather are in Mexico, where cloud cover ranges from only about 20% to about 50% at the Texas border. In contrast to these circumstances, the weather outlook in the United States is marginal, if not downright unfavorable. Climatic data indicates that the average cloud cover increases from about 50-60% in Texas, in the 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 to about 60-65%, before rising again above 80% for Quebec, northern New England and the Maritimes. You can get more details on the Eclipsophile website here
But even in the most pessimistic of places, all you need to remember is the famous aphorism attributed to science fiction writer Robert Heinlein: “The climate is what you expect, but the weather is what you get!”
Indeed, April weather in the United States and southern Canada is much more variable than Mexico, so there is some hope of very clear skies on the day of the eclipse in each location.
And as we get closer to that special day, Space.com will provide detailed coverage for potential eclipse hunters, so mark your calendars and stay tuned!
Joe Rao is a teacher and visiting lecturer in New York Hayden PlanetariumHe prescribes about astronomy Natural History magazine, the Peasant Almanac and other publications. follow us on twitter @RTLnieuws and further Facebook