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Composit eimage of a total solar eclipse with text "Solar Eclipse April 8, 2024"

Why is the Path of Totality in an Eclipse So Extraordinary? | Compact Science

A total eclipse is one of the rarest and most spectacular events in nature.  For the first time since 1925, Western New York will experience a total solar eclipse – an amazing celestial event when the light of the sun is completely blocked out by the moon.  In this episode of Compact Science Sarajane explores the science of eclipses and unravels why the 2024 solar eclipse is such a big deal! 

Countdown to the beginning of the Solar Eclipse in Buffalo

What is all the excitement about?

On the afternoon of April 8, 2024, Western New York will experience one of nature’s most spectacular phenomena: a total solar eclipse. On that day, the Sun and Moon will align over WNY, encompassing everyone in our region in what is called the path of totality.

During a total solar eclipse, the entire area inside the path of totality will go dark. In WNY, totality will occur around 3:18pm and last for three minutes. Observers will notice a change in wind direction and temperature. It will appear as though night has fallen in the afternoon hours: automated streetlights may come on and animals may go quiet. If there are clear skies, stars and planets may appear, as well as the Sun’s swirling atmosphere, called the corona.

A total solar eclipse is seen on Monday, Aug. 21, 2017 above Madras, Oregon.
A total solar eclipse is seen on Aug. 21, 2017 above Madras, Oregon.
NASA/Aubrey Gemignani 

What is the timeline?

During the April 8, 2024 total solar eclipse, the Moon's umbral shadow will fly across North America, from Mazatlán on the Pacific coast of Mexico to eastern Canada's island of Newfoundland, in a little less than two hours. The path of this shadow, the path of totality, is where observers will see the Moon completely cover the Sun for up to four and a half minutes.

Within the United States, the path touches 15 states: Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, the extreme northwest corner of Tennessee, Illinois, far western Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, the extreme southeast corner of Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.

In Buffalo, the Moon will begin to cover the Sun at 2:04pm. We will see more and more of the Sun covered by the Moon over the next 70 minutes. This time is called a partial phase because the Sun is partially covered by the Moon. You must wear eclipse glasses during this phase. Totality begins at approximately 3:15pm and lasts about 3 minutes 45 seconds for viewers on the centerline. The farther you are from the centerline, the shorter totality will last. After totality, the Moon gradually uncovers the Sun in a second partial phase. The eclipse ends for Buffalo viewers at about 4:30pm. Use this interactive map to find your exact times for the eclipse.

Path of Totality Western New York, Southern Ontario 3:21pm ED
NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio

How to safely view a solar eclipse

Except during the brief total phase of a total solar eclipse, when the Moon completely blocks the Sun’s bright face, it is not safe to look directly at the Sun without specialized eye protection for solar viewing.

The only safe way to the partially or uneclipsed Sun is through specialized solar filters, like those found in eclipse glasses or hand-held solar viewers.

Eclipse glasses are NOT regular sunglasses; regular sunglasses, no matter how dark, are not safe for viewing the Sun. Safe solar viewers are thousands of times darker.

Viewing any part of the bright Sun through a camera lens, binoculars, or a telescope without a special-purpose solar filter secured over the front of the optics will instantly cause severe eye injury.

If you don’t have eclipse glasses or a handheld solar viewer, you can use an indirect viewing method, which does not involve looking directly at the Sun. One way is to use a pinhole projector, which has a small opening (for example, a hole punched in an index card) and projects an image of the Sun onto a nearby surface. With the Sun at your back, you can then safely view the projected image. Do NOT look at the Sun through the pinhole!

NASA Goddard

How to Make a Box Pinhole Projector

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LIVE on April 8


2024 Total Solar Eclipse: Through the Eyes of NASA (Official Broadcast)

Watch live with NASA as a total solar eclipse moves across North America on April 8, 2024, traveling through Mexico, across the United States from Texas to Maine, and out across Canada’s Atlantic coast. A total solar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes between the Sun and the Earth, completely blocking the face of the Sun. The sky will darken as if it were dawn or dusk. From 1 to 4pm EDT on April 8, we’ll share conversations with experts and provide telescope views of the eclipse from several sites along the eclipse path.

Listen Live: WNED Classical

WNED Classical will provide nonstop music beginning at 2pm, guiding you through the eclipse.

From WBFO News

Eclipse Viewing

Resources from PBS Learning Media

PBS Learning media

Compact Science Viewer Challenge | The Path of Totality

Sarajane explores the science of eclipses and unravels why the 2024 solar eclipse is such a big deal! After watching, complete the viewer challenge to gain a deeper understanding of the key concepts. Best suited for Grades 5-8.

PBS Learning media

How to Safely View an Eclipse with a Pinhole Viewer

Astronomer/ Professor Dr. Kate Dellenbusch explains different ways to safely view a solar eclipse, the science behind why these methods work, and how to create a pinhole viewer. Best suited for Grades K-5.

PBS Learning media

Why Isn't There an Eclipse Every Month? 

Investigate how the orbits and relative positions of the Moon, the Sun, and Earth produce eclipses. This interactive lesson will help students understand the mechanics of lunar and solar eclipses and explain why they are rare. Best suited for Grades 6-8.

PBS Learning media

Teach the Total Solar Eclipse with Ready Jet Go!

A total eclipse of the Sun is coming to Boxwood Terrace! Sunspot attempts to explain the eclipse to all the local animals so they won’t think it’s night and sleep through it. Best suited for Grades K-2.

PBS Learning media

Explore Relative Sizes and Distances of the Sun and Moon

Learn how relationships of size and distance among the Moon, the Sun, and Earth lead to a total solar eclipse. Use this resource to stimulate thinking and questions about the causes of solar eclipses and to develop and use models of the Earth–Sun–Moon system. Best suited for Grades 6-8.

PBS Learning media

Watch a Solar Eclipse with an Astronomer

Astronomer Jay Reynolds explains what a solar eclipse is and how to watch them in a safe way - and no you don't have to have those funky glasses to get a good glimpse! Best suited for Grades 3-8.

PBS Learning media

Total Solar Eclipse: Science Fact vs. Science Fiction!

People across the United States are excited for the total solar eclipse on Monday, April 8. Use the statements below to test your students’ eclipse and space knowledge. Each statement comes with a resource to learn more. Resources are available for all ages.