A spectacular total solar eclipse is coming up on October 24, 2023, which will be visible across a path traversing parts of North America, Central America, and South America. This rare celestial event occurs when the Moon completely blocks the Sun for a few brief minutes, revealing the Sun's outer atmosphere and turning day into twilight.
Where and when you need to be to view this awe-inspiring natural phenomenon? This complete guide provides all the key details about the upcoming October 24, 2023 total solar eclipse to help you plan your eclipse chasing adventure.
What is a Total Solar Eclipse?
A total solar eclipse happens when the Moon passes directly between the Earth and Sun, completely blocking the Sun's bright face. This casts a shadow known as the path of totality on the Earth's surface, allowing viewers within the path to witness the magical spectacle of totality.
During totality, the Sun's pearly white corona becomes visible, creating a halo around the blackened Sun. Bright stars and planets may also become visible. As the Moon gradually moves to uncover the Sun's face, a series of dazzling effects are created. The 'diamond ring effect' occurs just before totality ends, featuring a last burst of light.
Total solar eclipses are only possible due to a cosmic coincidence - the Moon appears just about the same size in the sky as the Sun. This allows the smaller Moon to perfectly cover the Sun's larger form during an alignment.
While partial solar eclipses occur about twice a year, total eclipses are rare events at any given location. But for those lucky enough to experience totality, it is an awe-inspiring, unforgettable spectacle.
Where is the Path of Totality for 2023?
According to calculations by eclipse-timer.com, the path of totality for the October 24, 2023 eclipse will begin off the northern California coast in the Pacific Ocean. It will make landfall near the coastal town of Eureka, California from around 9:00 to 9:30 AM local time.
From there, the path cuts a diagonal swath southeast across the western United States. Major cities in the path include:
- Redding, California
- Reno, Nevada
- Albuquerque, New Mexico
- Lubbock, Texas
- Tulsa, Oklahoma
The centerline will then cross into Mexico near Mazatlán on the west coast around midday local time. It will sweep across the heart of Mexico through cities like Durango and Torreón.
Reentering the continental United States, the path passes through:
- Austin, Texas
- Dallas, Texas
- Little Rock, Arkansas
- Nashville, Tennessee
- Cincinnati, Ohio
Continuing northeast, it crosses through Buffalo, New York then through southern Quebec, Canada. The path finally ends at sunset in the Labrador Sea off the coast of Newfoundland.
Millions more across North America will see a partial eclipse, making this an unprecedented continental event.
What Time Will the Eclipse Happen?
With the path of totality extending across multiple time zones over 7,500 miles, eclipse timing will vary dramatically based on your location. Here are key times for major cities according to eclipse-timer.com:
- Eureka, California - Begins 9:06 AM, Maximum Eclipse 9:41 AM
- Albuquerque, New Mexico - Begins 10:15 AM, Maximum Eclipse 11:08 AM
- Mazatlán, Mexico - Begins 11:05 AM, Maximum Eclipse 11:32 AM
- Austin, Texas - Begins 11:35 AM, Maximum Eclipse 12:31 PM
- Cleveland, Ohio - Begins 1:17 PM, Maximum Eclipse 2:17 PM
- Montreal, Canada - Begins 2:17 PM, Maximum Eclipse 3:19 PM
- Cancún, Mexico (Partial) - Begins 2:20 PM, Maximum Eclipse 3:50 PM
Check eclipse-timer.com to get customized times for your exact location. They also provide interactive Google Maps showing the moving path and timing details.
How Long Will Totality Last?
The maximum duration of totality at the very center of the path will be 4 minutes and 10 seconds, occurring southwest of Carbondale, Illinois. This makes it the longest total solar eclipse since 2017, but still well short of the maximum possible duration of 7 minutes 40 seconds.
Locations farther north and south along the path will experience shorter totality duration. But any spot within the path will experience the remarkable sight of a blacked out Sun and surrounding corona.
For eclipse chasers wanting to maximize their totality time, targeting spots near Carbondale, Illinois or other central locations is ideal. But anywhere in the path will result in an unforgettable experience.
What to Expect During a Total Solar Eclipse
Witnessing a total solar eclipse is an otherworldly experience with unique effects as the Moon gradually blocks the Sun. Here's a timeline of what viewers can expect during the roughly hour and a half from the start of the partial phase until totality ends:
- Partial Phase Beginning - As the Moon starts covering the Sun, it will look like a subtle bite is being taken out of the Sun's edge. The sky remains bright.
- Increasing Shadow - The bite grows bigger, creating a crescent Sun shape. More dramatic dimming occurs but light still lingers from the visible crescent.
- Approaching Totality - The thin crescent becomes a dramatic sliver of light as darkness falls. Shadow bands may become visible on the ground.
- Totality - The Moon fully blocks the Sun, revealing the ethereal corona and blackening the sky. Bright stars and planets emerge for 2 to 4 minutes.
- Diamond Ring - Just before totality ends, a final bright flash of the Sun appears creating the 'diamond ring effect'. A highlight of the event.
- Exiting Totality - The Moon begins uncovering the Sun, returning light to the sky. Another diamond ring may be visible here. The partial phase completes over the next hour.
The onset of darkness and appearance of the Sun's corona is an emotional, stirring experience for viewers. But safely viewing the partial phases before and after totality requires proper eye protection.
Eye Safety During the Eclipse
Looking directly at the Sun without protection can lead to permanent eye damage or blindness. Except for the brief window of totality, special solar filters or eclipse glasses must be used to view the eclipse safely.
Here are some tips:
- Use ISO 12312-2 certified eclipse glasses that completely block direct sunlight throughout the partial phases. Do not use homemade filters or regular sunglasses.
- During totality, it is safe to view the fully eclipsed Sun directly without filtration. But put glasses back on promptly as totality ends.
- Use welding filters rated Shade 12 or higher for telescopes or binoculars. Shade 14 recommended.
- Do not view through unfiltered cameras, telescopes, binoculars or other optical devices except during totality. They exponentially intensify solar rays.
- Supervise children using filters at all times.
With proper eye protection, the partial solar eclipse can be viewed safely as it transforms into one of nature's most magnificent spectacles - totality.
Ideal Spots to View the Total Eclipse
While any spot within the path of totality will provide a stunning experience, some locations offer optimal conditions for extended totality and favorable weather prospects.
Here are some ideal places eclipse chasers recommend to view the October 24, 2023 total solar eclipse:
- Carbondale, Illinois - Near point of greatest duration and eclipse enthusiasm hub with events.
- Nashville, Tennessee - Major city in path with 2 minutes 28 seconds totality. Clear weather prospects.
- Dallas, Texas - 4 minutes 5 seconds totality and drier fall weather prospects.
- Albuquerque, New Mexico - High elevation spot with great weather odds and thinner atmosphere for crystal clear views.
- Idaho Falls, Idaho - High elevation city in path with 3 minutes ideal weather prospects.
- Redding, California - Starting point of the path in the western US with clear views anticipated.
Use eclipse weather monitoring and historical patterns to target locations likely to have clearer skies. Mexico, Florida and eastern Canada also offer high odds of favorable weather.
How to Photograph a Total Solar Eclipse
For photographers, a total solar eclipse provides the chance to capture dazzling visuals, from the partial phases to totality and the corona. To get optimal photos:
- Use a DSLR camera - Ideally a interchangeable lens model with manual exposure control and the ability to attach solar filters.
- Solar filter for partial phases - Attach a certified safe solar filter to the front of telephoto lenses throughout the partial stages before and after totality.
- Remove filter for totality - During the brief totality window, detach the solar filter to expose your camera sensor directly to the fully eclipsed Sun.
- Mount on tripod - Use a sturdy tripod to minimize blur and stabilize your shots during the eclipse.
- Manual focus - Pre-focus your camera on infinity and switch to manual focusing to lock in sharpness as lighting changes.
- Bracket exposures - Take sequences of shots at different exposures to ensure optimal captures of the darkened corona and outer atmosphere.
- Include foreground - Frame totality shots using foreground elements like landscapes, cityscapes or crowds to show the surrounding scenery and experience.
With the right equipment and preparation, you can get professional-grade photos to forever memorialize your eclipse chase.
Viewing the Eclipse from Home
While viewing the total solar eclipse in person is a unique bucket list experience, you don't have to travel into the path to participate. Here are some ways to observe from home:
- Live streaming - Watch feeds from observatories and eclipse chasers within the path. NASA and other outlets will provide streams.
- Pinhole projectors - Make a simple pinhole viewer to project the partial eclipse onto a surface in backyard. Fun for kids.
- Filtered glasses - Use solar viewing glasses to check the partial eclipse progress safely from locations outside the path.
- Binocular/telescope projection - Project the partial eclipse magnified onto a wall through filtered binoculars. Do not look through them directly.
- Follow online - Get live updates as the eclipse shadow sweeps across North America through media outlets and social media.
While totality must be experienced directly, a partial eclipse still offers excitement and wonder for the whole continent.
When is the Next Total Eclipse?
After the incredibly long wait since 2017, eclipse chasers won't have to wait as long for the next one after 2023. Another total solar eclipse is coming up on April 8, 2024 crossing the central United States.
The paths of the 2023 and 2024 eclipses actually crisscross each other, making it possible to experience two total eclipses just 6 months apart.
Some other upcoming total solar eclipses worldwide include:
- August 2, 2027 - Spain, Morocco, Algeria
- July 22, 2028 - Australia, New Zealand
- June 25, 2039 - Northern U.S., Atlantic Canada
But the October 24, 2023 eclipse is the next chance for North Americans to experience this incredible celestial wonder right in their backyard.
Be Part of This Rare Event
The October 24, 2023 total solar eclipse will offer millions of viewers across North America a chance to experience the magic and grandeur of totality. Don't miss your opportunity to be part of this rare and wondrous event by making plans now.
Whether you are able to make the journey into the path of totality or participate from your own backyard, this eclipse will provide views and memories to last a lifetime. Follow the eclipse preparation details and viewing advice in this guide to fully capitalize on this extraordinary natural phenomenon.
And mark your calendar for the total solar eclipse coming just six months later on April 8, 2024 - the next unforgettable opportunity to chase totality!