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On Monday, April 8, 2024, a total solar eclipse will cross North America, passing over parts of Mexico, the United States, and Canada. Totality, when the Moon completely blocks the Sun from the vantage point of Earth, will occur along a path approximately 115 miles wide that runs northeast from the west coast of Mexico through Texas and the central US to southern Canada, New England, and the Maritime Provinces. A partial eclipse will be visible from all 48 contiguous US states plus Hawaiʻi, weather permitting.

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NASA and timeanddate can help you plan your viewing and estimate how long totality will last at your location (never long enough!). The American Astronomical Society offers guidelines for viewing safetynever look directly at the Sun without eye protection; the damage to vision is irreversible. You may remove eye projection during totality—not a second before. And be careful to protect your eyes before the end of totality. Some observers use timers to make sure they won’t be caught off guard by the end of the spectacle. Inexpensive eclipse-viewing glasses can be ordered online; follow the AAS guidelines to ensure you’re purchasing a quality product. The AAS has also shared instructions for indirect viewing of the event through pinhole projectors and colanders (really).

We’re here to tell you everything else you need to know about solar eclipses and the history of human reactions to them. Who first accurately predicted an eclipse? What do scientists learn when the Moon comes between Earth and Sun? What exactly are we talking about when we discuss the Sun’s shadow? The stories below answer these questions and more. Read on to prepare for the upcoming eclipse—and don’t forget the eye protection!

Science and the Eclipsed Sun

Solar Eclipse

An Eclipse is a Scientific Bonanza

On August 21, 2017, North America’s first total solar eclipse in a while will cross the center of the United States from East to West.

Anaxagoras and the Eclipse: The First to Get It Right

Scholars sometimes credit Thales or Empedocles of Acragas with the first correct theory of solar eclipses, but it was Anaxagoras who had the science right.
Total solar eclipse, May 29, 1919, at Sobral, Brazil

Bridging The Gap of War: Einstein’s Eclipse

Astronomer Arthur S. Eddington argued that astronomy should be above politics, even when politics leads to world war.
The eclipse of Agathocles

How Astronomers Write History

Scientists’ approach to dating past eclipses changed when they stopped treating classical texts as authoritative records.
Victorian eclipse

Solar Eclipse Tourism: The Victorians Were the Pioneers

People have been planning for this month's total solar eclipse for years. They aren't the first to do so: the Victorians pioneered eclipse tourism.
Flag of the Chinese Empire under the Qing dynasty (1889-1912)

Dragon Swallows the Sun: Predicting Eclipses in China

China had a long history of astronomy before the arrival of Europeans, but the politics of absolute rule led to the eventual embrace of Western methods.
Sunlight and Shadow by Albert Bierstadt

Do We Actually See Shadows?

In a blackout, you do not hear or taste the darkness; you see it. It looks a certain way. On the philosophy of shadows.
Illustration of an insect between brackets and a pair of hands

Why We Need to Start Listening to Insects

The study of wingbeat has come an incredibly long way and could lead to breakthroughs crucial for human populations facing insect-borne disease and pests.

Astonishing Moments in the History Astronomy

The Book of Miracles, c. 1550

The Long History of Comet Phobia

Even the invention of the telescope couldn't convince all people to put aside superstitions about comets.
Colour lithograph of partial lunar eclipse by Etienne Leopold Trouvelot

Trouvelot’s Total Lunar Eclipse

Immigrant artist Étienne Léopold Trouvelot used his skills to accurately represent the details—and the sublimity—of our solar system.
Maria Mitchell

America’s First Woman Astronomer

Maria Mitchell became famous when she discovered a comet in 1847. She didn't stop there, fighting for education and equality for women in the sciences.
An illustration of sunspots from between 1885 and 1890

Do Sunspots Explain Global Recession, War, or Famine?

Maybe it's something about the number eleven?
Lick Observatory

The Women Who Made Male Astronomers’ Ambitions Possible

In the late 19th century, Elizabeth Campbell helped her astronomer husband run the Lick Observatory and lead scientific eclipse-viewing expeditions.
From Remarks on the new comet. In a letter from William Herschel to Charles Blagden

Caroline Herschel Claims Her Comet

Couching her petition in a mix of modesty and expertise, Herschel became the first woman to have a scientific paper read to the Royal Society of London.
Extreme ultraviolet light streams out of an X-class solar flare

The Threat of Solar Flares

Solar flares are highly unpredictable and difficult to anticipate. But their threat is very real.
A tunnel of carious speckles and colors

How to See the Invisible Universe

Telescopes that detect long-wavelength signals offer clues about the Big Bang, the centers of black holes, and the origins of life.
Astronomical image of Alpha Capricorni

Ole Rømer and the Speed of Light

In 1676, Danish astronomer Ole Rømer predicted that an eclipse of one of Jupiter’s moons would occur ten minutes later than expected. How did he know?
Collage of women astronomers

Eight Women Astronomers You Should Know

A guided tour of selected luminaries of astronomy, from Ancient Greece to today.

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