Here's What You Need to Know About the 2024 Total Solar Eclipse

The next total solar eclipse arrives in the U.S. on April 8, 2024.

Well folks, we've officially made it. This Saturday, April 8, marks exactly one year to the day until the next total solar eclipse is set to cross North America. Although an entire year feels like it's still a pretty long way to go, if you are hoping to get a good look at the rare celestial phenomenon, the time to start planning is now.

Solar eclipse tourism is a huge industry and destinations along the path of totality for the 2024 total solar eclipse are already preparing for an influx of travelers to arrive in their communities. According to the Great American Eclipse, 32 million people already live along the US path of totality, and major cities like New York, Boston, and Philadelphia are all within 200 miles of the path, so there will almost certainly be a mass of people traveling to experience this.

Hotels along the path of totality are already seeing surging business, and accommodations in these areas are expected to book up far in advance of the April 8, 2024 eclipse. The same can also be said for the many cruise lines that are offering unique solar eclipse-centric sailings, particularly whoever manages to book Bonnie Tyler this go around.

With a year to go before the main event, we wanted to outline everything you need to know to prepare for eclipse travel next year. As more detailed information becomes available as the eclipse draws closer, this guide will continually be updated.

When and where is the next solar eclipse?

The next total solar eclipse that will be viewable from North America will cross the continent on April 8, 2024. As NASA outlines in its detailed overview of the eclipse, the eclipse's path of totality in North America will begin around 11:07 am PDT near Mazatlan on Mexico's Pacific coast that day, weather permitting. Once totality begins, it should last for a period of about four minutes and 27 seconds, roughly the length of Canadian band LEN's 1999 hit "Steal My Sunshine." A partial eclipse will be viewable for about 70 to 80 minutes both before and after the period of totality.

The path of the eclipse is then expected to enter Texas and will continue along a northeastern path across the entire continent, extending from Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, and Illinois all the way to New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. The path will then enter Canada and will exit continental North America off the Atlantic coast of Newfoundland at 5:16 pm NDT.

For a more detailed outline of when totality is forecast to begin in each community along the path, NASA has compiled a table offering localized estimates. For example, the total eclipse should be viewable in Dallas starting at 1:40 pm CDT on April 8, 2024. In Cleveland, Ohio, it will begin at 3:13 pm EDT, and in Caribou, Maine totality should start at 3:32 pm EDT.

NASA has created a detailed map showing the total solar eclipse’s full path across the US including the times of totality. The map also shows the path that the annular "ring of fire" solar eclipse will follow on October 14, 2023. Additional localized details are also available on the Great American Eclipse's free mobile app.

nasa map total solar eclipse 2024
Courtesy of NASA

What is the difference between an annular solar eclipse and total solar eclipse?

As NASA explains, a total solar eclipse occurs when the Moon's path passes between the Sun and Earth and completely blocks the face of the Sun. When in the path of totality, the sky will darken as though it were nighttime.

An annular solar eclipse also occurs when the Moon passes between the Sun and Earth, but annular eclipses happen when the Moon is at a farther distance from the Earth and is unable to fully cover up the Sun. Because of this, the Moon will appear as a dark circle in front of the Sun, creating the visual effect which earns this eclipse the nickname of a "ring of fire" eclipse.

How often does a solar eclipse happen? How rare is it?

Solar eclipses occur anytime the Sun, the Moon, and the Earth are in either full or partial alignment. This happens at least twice a year to some degree, but because the Moon doesn't orbit in the same plane as the Sun and Earth, a total solar eclipse observed from one specific location on Earth is relatively rare.

The next total solar eclipse that will be viewable from the contiguous United States after the 2024 eclipse will not occur until August 23, 2044. Just think of how many seasons and spinoffs of RuPaul's Drag Race are likely to occur between now and then. You’ll want to see this one if you can!

What will the 2024 eclipse look like?

If skies are clear in your location during the 2024 eclipse and you are on the path of totality, you will briefly see the Moon fully obscure the Sun in total darkness. You will also be able to observe the Sun's corona (aka outer atmosphere) which we normally cannot see due to the Sun's brightness. Even if it's a bit cloudy that day, you will see the sky darken significantly for at least a brief time.

Those outside of the path of totality will also be able to see a partial eclipse, where the Moon will only partially block out the Sun. The closer to the path of totality you are, the darker it will be.

What not to do during the eclipse?

To view the eclipse safely, you should only look at it through eclipse glasses or a solar viewer. The one exception to this safety guidance is when you are viewing the eclipse along the path of totality during the period of totality where the Moon is fully blocking the Sun.

Ready to go stargazing?

Here are all the best stargazing events that you can get out and see this month or you could stay in a stream the northern lights from home. If you're just getting started, check out our guide to astronomy for beginners or easy stargazing road trips from big US cities.

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Joe Erbentraut is the Editorial Director of News at Thrillist. Follow Joe on Twitter.