What is being referred to as the “Great North American Solar Eclipse” will take place on April 8th of this spring and will cover parts the United States, Canada, and Mexico in complete darkness! The solar eclipse’s name is so dubbed because of its expected duration, visibility, and its plotted trajectory, which includes some of the country’s most densely populated metro areas, such as Detroit.
What is a solar eclipse?
A solar eclipse is an astronomical phenomenon where the Sun, the moon, and the Earth all align, specifically with the Moon passing between the Earth and the Sun, blocking the sun’s light and casting a shadow of the moon onto the Earth.
A lunar eclipse, which is a completely astronomical phenomenon, is when Earth passes between the Sun and the Moon, causing the Moon to fall within the darkest part of Earth’s shadow. Lunar eclipses tend to be more frequent and are generally more visible compared to solar eclipses, so they are not considered as remarkable or noteworthy.
There are three different kinds of solar eclipses:
- A partial eclipse: the moon never blocks the sun’s light completely from your geographic location, only partially, hence its name.
- An annular eclipse: the moon is too far from Earth to completely block the sun’s light fully, so despite lining up perfectly with the sun, instead of completely blocking the light, there is a “ring” or “annulus” of light that encircles the moon during the eclipse.
- A total eclipse: the moon completely blocks the sun for a short period in your area, resulting in darkness as the moon’s shadow is cast upon your geographic location.
When and where will the next total solar eclipse happen?
The upcoming total solar eclipse will take place on Monday, April 8, 2024.
The path of the total solar eclipse according to NASA, the first location in continental North America that will experience totality is Mexico’s Pacific coast at around 11:07 a.m. PDT (1:07 p.m. CDT) before it exits continental North America on the Atlantic coast of Newfoundland, Canada, at 5:16 p.m. NDT (2:46 p.m. CDT).
By around 3:10-3:15 pm EDT, the nearly total solar eclipse will be visible near the Detroit area for only a matter of minutes, the partial solar eclipse visible in Detroit is expected to block around 98% of the sun’s light. For Detroiters that want to experience a true “total solar eclipse” NASA writes that Toledo, the closet major city to Detroit to fall within the “total solar eclipse” zone, will fall into darkness around 3:15 pm EDT on the day of the eclipse.
What is special about the ‘Great North American Total Eclipse’?
There are multiple reasons why this eclipse is unique and special, but the first and foremost reason is because of how long it will be visible! In the areas experiencing a total solar eclipse, the sun will be blocked for an average of 4 minutes and 28.2 seconds, which is abnormally long for these types of astronomical phenomena. When a total solar eclipse lasts for anything over 4 minutes it is considered an exceptional solar eclipse.
Also, for further evidence, over the past decade, the maximum duration of totality for 75 different sampled solar eclipses from around the world only averaged out to a total of 3 minutes and 13 seconds!
The second major reason for why this is such a unique event is because of its size, so not only will it be visible for a long time, but also to a wider area! The last “Great North American Eclipse” that occurred in 2017 took a path that went from coast to coast captivating millions with a 70-mile-wide path of totality. To put it in perspective, April 8th’s eclipse will stretch over 125 miles wide 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” writes the Farmers Almanac. “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.”
More information can be found at science.nasa.gov.