Monday, April 15, 2024

What’s gonna happen during the total solar eclipse in April?

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Hey folks! On April 8, there’s a cool celestial show happening in North America. A total solar eclipse is swinging by Mexico, the United States, and Canada.

This spectacular event is visible to a bunch of people, around 32 million in the US alone, who are in the eclipse’s path. If you’re lucky to be in the “path of totality,” the moon’s shadow will totally cover the sun. NASA says those right in the middle will catch a 3½ to 4-minute eclipse.

The next time we’ll see a total solar eclipse like this in the US won’t be until August 2044. That’s a long wait, considering the last one was more than six years ago in 2017. Also, an annular eclipse won’t be happening in this part of the world again until 2046.

What’s a total solar eclipse, you ask? It’s when the moon gets between Earth and the sun, making the sun disappear for a bit. If you’re in the path of totality, lucky you! You’ll see the sun completely covered. Others outside that path will still catch a partial solar eclipse, where only part of the sun gets hidden. Cool, huh?

When there’s a total solar eclipse, the sky gets dark like it does during sunrise or sunset. There are different steps to the eclipse that people who enjoy looking at the sky can expect.

The moon doesn’t suddenly show up between the Earth and the sun. It starts with a partial eclipse, making it look like the moon is taking a “bite” out of the sun, making the sun look like a crescent shape. Depending on where you are, this partial eclipse can last 70 to 80 minutes, as NASA says.

When the moon moves in front of the sun, the sun’s rays will shine around the valleys on the moon’s horizon, creating glowing drops of light around the moon. This cool thing is called Baily’s beads.

As the total eclipse gets closer, Baily’s beads will quickly disappear until only one point of light is left, making it look like a giant shining diamond ring.

When the total solar eclipse happens, the diamond ring disappears, and it gets dark because the sunlight is blocked by the moon. You might see bright stars or planets, and the air gets colder. This sudden darkness makes animals quiet.

During the eclipse, the sun’s atmosphere, called the chromosphere, may glow in a thin pink circle around the moon. The sun’s outer atmosphere, called the corona, looks like white light.

As the moon moves across the sun, you’ll see the diamond ring, Baily’s beads, and a partial solar eclipse on the opposite side of the moon until the sun fully appears again.

If you want to see the eclipse, it will be visible in parts of Mexico, Canada, and over 10 US states. A crescent-shaped partial eclipse is expected in 49 states if the weather is good.

The eclipse starts over the South Pacific Ocean and goes across North America, hitting Mexico’s Pacific coast first at 11:07 a.m. PT (2:07 p.m. ET). It then travels across Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and other states, ending on the Atlantic coast of Newfoundland at 5:16 p.m. (3:46 p.m. ET).

To safely watch the eclipse, you should only look at the sun without eye protection during the “totality” when the moon completely covers the sun. Otherwise, use eclipse glasses or a solar viewer. Regular sunglasses won’t protect your eyes. Also, never stare directly at the sun, as it can cause blindness or damage your vision.

Solar eclipse glasses have special lenses made of dark material that blocks most types of light. Sunglasses, on the other hand, don’t protect your eyes enough.

To ensure your eclipse glasses are safe, check the list provided by the American Astronomical Society. Always wear your glasses before looking at the sun, and make sure kids keep them on.

If you wear regular glasses, keep them on and put the eclipse glasses over them. Don’t use cameras or telescopes without proper filters, as the sun’s rays can still damage your eyes even with eclipse glasses.

If you bought glasses for a previous eclipse, save them in a safe place for the next one. Learning from eclipses helps scientists understand how the sun and Earth interact. NASA supports various projects during total solar eclipses to make new discoveries.

One plan involves using NASA’s high-flying research planes to take pictures of the eclipse from way up high, about 50,000 feet above Earth. This will help capture new details in the sun’s corona that we haven’t seen before. These images might also assist scientists in finding asteroids near the sun.

Regular people who play with radios will try something cool during both types of solar eclipses. They want to see how the eclipses affect radio waves. People in different places will note how strong their radio signals are and how far they go. Scientists want to understand this because the sun affects the upper part of Earth’s atmosphere, called the ionosphere, where radio signals travel. When the moon covers the sun, things might change.

Both scientists and everyday people are getting ready to watch the most active parts of the sun as the moon moves in front of them. They’ll use the Goldstone Apple Valley Radio Telescope during both eclipses.

The sun is getting really busy this year, and scientists are excited to observe its peak activity during the eclipses. They hope to learn new things that can only be seen during these special events.

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