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April 2024 total eclipse guide: How to watch, understand and stay safe on April 8

The surreal midday darkness of a total solar eclipse will pass over the United States on April 8, 2024, and there’s plenty you should know before the big day, which won’t happen again for about two decades.

Of all the celestial sights, there’s none quite like a total solar eclipse, when the sun, moon and Earth align and a narrow stretch of land is plunged into the moon’s shadow.

But seeing the sight for yourself requires some planning: You’ll want to know where the path of totality is, how to get protective glasses, how bad traffic will be and many other things.

Read on for answers for all your eclipse questions, including how to watch the eclipse, understand the eclipse and stay safe during the eclipse.

There’s a few ways of watching the eclipse:

  • Get the full experience in person: If you’re in a narrow band of U.S. land that spans from Texas to Maine, you will see the moon block the sun and its shadow cast a night-like darkness over Earth for a few minutes. You’ll briefly be able to look up without eye protection and see the moon block the sun.
  • Watch from outside the path of totality: Much of the U.S. will get a partial view of the eclipse that isn’t nearly as impressive as being in the path of totality. Earth won’t be plunged into complete darkness and you’ll have to wear protective eyewear to see the moon partially block the sun.
  • Watch a livestream: Check back on April 8 for a video feed from the path of totality. It’s not the same as being there in person, but hey, at least you won’t have to sit in traffic.
  • It’s too soon to say for sure, but history offers some clues.
  • Chances of cloudy skies are pretty high along much of the eclipse’s northern path, with some areas like Buffalo having about a one-in-three chance of clear skies in early April.
  • Skies are usually more clear to the south. Right along the Texas/Mexico border, chances of a clear sky can be nearly 75%.
  • April’s total solar eclipse will fall over more places in the U.S. than the total eclipse before and after it. And the broad length of the path of totality – where Americans have the best shot of getting a clear view – is “much wider” than it was for the eclipse in 2017, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
  • A total solar eclipse is also far more impressive than a lunar or an annular solar eclipse. During an annular eclipse, the moon covers the Sun but leaves an outside ring some call a “ring of fire” — it darkens the sky instead of plunging Earth into a night-like darkness, which is what happens during a total solar eclipse. And a lunar eclipse – the appearance of a red moon – happens when the moon passes into the Earth’s shadow, according to NASA.

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