Science and sky lovers are gearing up for the 2024 solar eclipse

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People in the path of the April 8, 2024, solar eclipse will be praying for a cloudless day. My husband and I’ll step out on our deck as we did seven years ago for a partial view of the 2017 eclipse. But this one is different, as we’ll be front and center for the big show, as will our southern Indiana neighbors Barbara Stahura and Ken Willingham. Our area is at 100% totality.

“Watching the 2017 eclipse was an amazing experience; to stand on our back deck and see the world go dark for a few minutes was spectacular,” said Stahura.

We’ll do the same thing in April. Since we’re in the path of totality, we don’t have to go anywhere to see it.

Many will host large-scale events at places with clear sky views across the 14 states, with parts in totality for the April 8 eclipse. Gatherings are planned from Texas to Maine at places like the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, whose large central infield offers great viewing options different from the usual partygoers’ scene at a race event. Texas and Oklahoma offer many music festivals tied in with the eclipse.

Also see: ‘An out-of-body experience’: The 2024 North American eclipse is shaping up to be the biggest 4-minute show of the decade

Pam Carter, a retired high school physics teacher, and her family will be in the right place at the right time, at their San Antonio, home. A family member contacted a bed-and-breakfast in the Hill Country to book a room for the eclipse. In the Hill Country, the view is guaranteed to be free of urban foliage or lights, assuming a cloudless day. What normally went for $500 a night had jumped to $5,000 a night; the inquiry was made one year before the eclipse. The Carters decided to watch it at home from their back deck.

Crowds gathered in Australia to watch a rare hybrid solar eclipse over the country’s west coast in April, 2023. The moment of totality, when the sun was completely blocked, lasted about a minute, but the full eclipse happened over several hours. Photo: Zulkarnain/Zuma Press

The science behind an eclipse

Carter falls easily into the language of teaching and brings me along into her world. Soon, I’m admiring the photographs she took last summer when Texas experienced an annular lunar eclipse. 

“The moon was too far from the earth to cover the sun entirely,” Carter explained, “When the lunar eclipse is at its peak, you have a ring of fire as the moon covers all but the edge of the sun. So you see a crescent shape, which remains as the moon passes over the sun.”

She continued, “I saw an eclipse several years ago, and I knew about the circles that would be in the shadows. I didn’t know exactly what the effect would be. The bottom of our pool looked grainy, and it was so weird. There were fractals of light that were unusual. The sun was coming through the leaves of the trees and making a crescent-shaped shadow, and it was refracted by the water and made this crazy effect on the bottom of the pool.”

“We sat in our deck chairs and wore Amazon
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glasses and watched every minute of it. I was delighted. I’m such a nerd,” Carter said.

She knew that the refracted sun would make designs on various elements in her yard, and she had her camera ready.

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Right place, right time

People watch the annular solar eclipse in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on Oct. 14, 2023.


AFP via Getty Images

For Carter and others like her, the most important aspect is the chance to experience a full solar eclipse with loved ones.

My neighbors, Stahura and Willingham, and the Carter family are among the lucky ones in the right place at the right time. Across the country, however, there are science and sky lovers who will travel to see the eclipse.

Lea Lane, who writes travel features for Forbes and hosts the “Places I Remember” podcast, will travel with her husband from their Miami high-rise home to share the eclipse with her son in a Rochester, New York park.

At 81, Lane has traveled worldwide and written multiple books and guides about travel. She shows no signs of slowing down and is excited to experience another solar eclipse. She and her husband traveled to Nashville, Tennessee, in 2017 to be in the path of totality for the eclipse.

Check out: It’s one of the latest trends in camping—why drive an RV when you can have it delivered?

The risk of clouds

“We went to Nashville for the 2017 eclipse on my birthday, and it was cloudy, but the sun broke through in the last 10 minutes before the eclipse,” Lane remembered. “We saw two sunsets that day: the sunset for the eclipse and the regular sunset. There’s nothing like a total eclipse; the light is incredibly special.”

In remembering the Tennessee trip, the inveterate traveler advises others: “We booked three days in Nashville and went a full day ahead of the eclipse for various reasons. You don’t want to miss your flight. Also, one should be aware that you may not get the full effect of the eclipse if it is cloudy.”

Lane continued, “It’s always nice to visit a new area, so plan other things to do. We attended a special concert at the Grand Old Opry. We saw stars not in the sky but at the Opry! I learned about a place I might not otherwise have seen.”

Lane remembers thinking 2024 was a long way away.

In Rochester, she and her husband will share other events with her son and his significant other, including the Rochester Philharmonic, light shows, acrobats and ballet.

“I have always been interested in the sky. I love the stars, comets and the northern lights. A total eclipse is right up there, the most exciting thing the sky can do.”

“I’m looking forward to this year’s eclipse. We can’t wait to see the whole view. It gets quiet; the crickets come out, and the birds chirp as if it is nighttime. You can tell the temperature difference.”

Lane is philosophical about her chosen hobby of travel writing and the ensuing adventures. “What I always wanted and what meant the world is to look back from this age and have happy memories which become more magnificent as you grow older. I figured out early that I wanted to be a travel writer, and I’ve been to 110 countries.”

See: 12 best American road trips

An experience with friends

Lexington, Kentucky, resident Toni Reiss and her husband will join college friends from the State University of New York at Buffalo for the eclipse.

“In 2017,” explained Reiss, a yoga instructor married to a University of Kentucky educator, “We decided to meet our close college friends in Nashville to see the eclipse. Most of our friends are on the East or West Coast, and Tennessee is an easy place to meet. We stayed downtown at the Omni, which had a rooftop pool. We watched from the pool’s chaise lounges and went in and out of the pool. We had a grand time.”

Anticipating the 2024 eclipse, Reiss and husband Marc Plavin will join their college friends, mostly in their early 70s, who have been friends for decades.

“We’ve rented a house near Letchworth State Park. We’ll go a few days in advance and check out Frank and Teresa’s Anchor Bar on Main Street, which made the original Buffalo wings.

“I would try to see the eclipse no matter what. And seeing it with our friends in our old college town is icing on the cake,” she said.

Reiss dipped a toe into philosophical waters.

“I have to say that, unlike many primitive peoples, I don’t have superstitions or think the eclipse is a signal or an omen about the world ending,” said Reiss. “The eclipse is a sign of the rhythm in the cosmos that we get to be privy to in this visceral way. So much of what happens unless we have a fantastic telescope is unseen, so this has a bigger impact on me. It’s not a cognitive thought; it’s a feeling about a miraculous thing that happens.

Reiss added, “You watch it unfold before you. I remember the last time the moon moved slowly in front of the sun, blocking more of it until the sun was gone. It got dark. Darker and darker and then lighter and lighter.”

Amy McVay Abbott is a retired healthcare executive who writes about health and aging, caregiving, disability, and occasionally the arts and history. She formerly wrote “A Healthy Way,” syndicated by Senior Wire News Service. 

This article is reprinted by permission from NextAvenue.org, ©2024 Twin Cities Public Television, Inc. All rights reserved.

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Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams is a writer and editor. Angeles. She writes about politics, art, and culture for LinkDaddy News.

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