There are two solar eclipses in 2024: the first is a total solar eclipse in April, visible across Mexico, the US, and Canada. The second is an annular solar eclipse, visible from the southern tips of Chile and Argentina.

You probably already know that a total solar eclipse happens when the moon completely covers the sun. An annular solar eclipse, on the other hand, happens when the moon is a bit further away from Earth and not quite large enough to cover the whole sun. Instead, it passes in front of the sun, covering its heart and leaving only a ‘ring of fire’, or annulus (hence, annular eclipse) visible for the lucky few on its path.

This article is your one-stop guide to understanding the beauty of solar eclipses, why they cover only a small fraction of Earth’s surface, and what you can expect of the 2024 solar eclipses.

Click to see this year’s lunar eclipses.


Solar Eclipses 2024

Total Solar Eclipse | April 08, 2024

Eclipse visibility favors mid-northern Mexico, the eastern USA, and the extreme southeast of Canada. See the detailed path below.

The first solar eclipse of this year begins in the Pacific Ocean, with its first major landfall being on the east coast of Mexico, near Mazatlán. After passing northeastwards it’ll cross the border into Texas, passing over San Antonio, Austin, and Dallas before crossing into Arkansas, then Missouri, Illinois, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, after which it hugs the Canadian border into New York.

It crosses briefly into Quebec before cutting across Maine, and then back into Canada’s New Brunswick. The path of totality then crosses the water before passing over Newfoundland and Labrador to finish its journey in the Atlantic Ocean a few hundred miles off the west coast of Europe.

The whole event begins at 15:42 UTC and lasts for just over five hours. The maximum eclipse occurs at 18:17 UTC and the longest that any one spot in its path will see totality is almost four and a half minutes.

Start of Partial Eclipse15:42 UT
Start of Total Eclipse (path of)16:38 UT
Maximum Eclipse18:17 UT
End of Total Eclipse (path of)19:55 UT
End of Partial Eclipse20:52 UT
Path of totality for the April 2024 total solar eclipse
Solar Eclipse path – Deep Blue shows the path of totality, which runs left to right (source)

Annular Solar Eclipse | October 02, 2024

Eclipse visibility favors the southern tips of Argentina and Chile. See the detailed path below.

The second and final solar eclipse of 2024 is the annular eclipse on the second of October 14. The entire event will last for more than six hours, but it takes place almost entirely over the Pacific Ocean. The far southern tips of Argentina and Chile are the only land masses that will enjoy seeing the ‘ring of fire’

At its greatest, observers get to see the moon fully in front of the sun’s disc for more than seven minutes. The moment of greatest eclipse will be 18:45 UTC, but the whole event begins at sea at 15:42 and finishes at 21:47 UTC.

A note of caution to our readers: The Sun is still partially visible during annular solar eclipses. So, please be careful if you are planning to witness the event. It is never safe to look at the Sun directly without the aid of eye protection that includes solar filters. Lack of proper eclipse glasses can cause retinal burns more commonly known as eclipse blindness. This guide has more information for those interested.

Start of Partial Eclipse15:42 UT
Start of Total Eclipse (path of)16:50 UT
Maximum Eclipse18:45 UT
End of Total Eclipse (path of)20:39 UT
End of Partial Eclipse21:47 UT
The path of October's annular solar eclipse
The red line shows the path of the annular solar eclipse (source)

What is a Solar Eclipse?

Solar eclipses are proof that daytime astronomical events can be as beautiful as night ones. They occur when the Moon’s orbit places it precisely between Earth and the Sun, an alignment called syzygy (pronounced SIZ-eh-gee).

In doing so, the Moon blocks the sunlight, casting a shadow on Earth. If you’re standing in that shadow, you’ll see the Sun obscured to a greater or lesser extent.

A NASA image showing the moon, the Sun and Earth’s alignment for a lunar eclipse
How three celestial bodies should be aligned for a lunar eclipse to occur (Source)

Solar eclipses, where the Moon completely covers the Sun, happen due to a perfect coincidence of size and distance.

The Moon is 400x smaller than the Sun but is also 400x closer to Earth. This serendipity makes the lunar disc exactly the same size as the solar one from our perspective… but not always!

When the moon passes in front of the sun during, or near, its apogee – when it is furthest from us – it is not large enough to completely cover the sun’s disc. When this happens, we see an annular solar eclipse, from the word annulus, meaning ‘ring’.

A solar eclipse begins when the moon makes its first contact, touching a limb of the sun and seeming to take a bite out of the perfect solar circle of light.

The start of a solar eclipse, showing the moon taking a chunk of the sun
The initial phase of a solar eclipse (Source)

When the Sun is not totally covered, the eclipse is a partial one. As the partial eclipse progresses, the bite taken out of the Sun by the Moon grows gradually until the Sun is only a narrow crescent in the sky.

Ten to fifteen minutes before totality occurs, the environment around you begins to change dramatically. There is a noticeable drop in brightness, the shadows grow sharper on the ground, and the sunlight will look strangely different, almost like you’re wearing shades.

The Bailey’s Beads effect during totality. Photo Credit: (NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)

A few seconds before the moment of totality, the last vestiges of sunlight peep through valleys between mountains on the Moon, causing the light to break into a thin string of beads, called Baily’s beads.

When totality hits, we instantly see our first glimpse of the Sun’s corona, leading to the famous diamond ring effect. This is the stage where darkness takes hold too, making the brighter stars and planets visible in the daytime.

A NASA image showing the solar surface covered by the moon
2017’s total solar eclipse (Source)

While the entire eclipse, from first to last contact, lasts anywhere between one to three hours, totality itself lasts only for 2-5 minutes

All too soon Baily’s beads and the diamond ring will be visible once again as the moon begins to uncover the sun and the total solar eclipse reverts to a partial solar eclipse.

The disc of the Sun fattens once more as the Moon moves past and the eclipse comes to an end as the Moon’s limb touches the Sun’s in the final act of a solar eclipse, known as last contact.

Why is a Solar Eclipse Not Visible Across the Whole Planet?

The Moon’s shadow is only a few hundred miles across, which is nowhere near large enough to cover the entire Earth. This underlines the fact that you are very fortunate to observe a total Solar eclipse because the strip of Earth they can be seen from is so small.

Furthermore, the fact that only a tiny part of the Earth’s surface experiences an eclipse makes it extremely rare the same place will see a second eclipse within a human lifetime.

The Sun, Moon, and Earth are in constant motion in slightly elliptical orbits. Earth rotates around its axis while the Moon orbits the Earth, and their geometry changes with every eclipse, making it very rare for the same point on the surface of our planet to see consecutive solar eclipses.

What’s The Difference Between The Umbra and Penumbra?

In every eclipse that occurs, there are two shadows cast by the Moon, the inner, darker umbra, and the outer, lighter, penumbra.

It’s easiest to think of the umbra as the shadow we see when the whole Sun is covered, while the penumbra is the shadow caused by a partial covering of the Sun.

As you might imagine, the penumbra has different darkness levels. The part of the penumbra closest to the umbra, where the Sun’s surface might be >90% obscured, is much darker than at its far edge where the Sun is less than 10% covered.

If you stand inside the path of the umbra – also known as the path of totality – the Sun will be entirely blocked by the Moon and you’ll observe a total eclipse.

However, if you stand inside the penumbra during an eclipse, you will only observe it as a partial eclipse.

Of course, some solar eclipses are only partial. When this happens, there is no umbral shadow hitting the Earth’s surface.

Future Solar Eclipses

This table shows all the upcoming total and partial solar eclipses for the next decade. We will, of course, bring much more detail on each one nearer the time.

DateVisibilityType
29 Mar 2025Northwest Europe, Greenland and northeast Canada, northwest AfricaPartial
21 Sep 2025New Zealand and southeastern Australia, AntarcticaPartial
17 Feb 2026Southeast Africa, the southern tip of South America, AntarcticaAnnular
12 Aug 2026Much of Europe, north USA and Canada, northeast Asia, northwest AfricaTotal
6 Feb 2027South America and Western AfricaAnnular
2 Aug 2027Southwest Europe, southwest Asia, northern Africa, eastern CanadaTotal
26 Jan 2028North and South America, Western Europe, and western AfricaAnnular
22 Jul 2028Australia, New Zealand, southern AsiaTotal
14 Jan 2029North AmericaPartial
12 Jun 2029Northern Asia and Northern CanadaPartial
11 Jul 2029Southern South AmericaPartial
5 Dec 2029Southern South America and AntarcticaPartial
1 Jun 2030North Africa, Europe, AsiaAnnular
25 Nov 2030Southern Africa, Australia, southern AsiaTotal
21 May 2031Southern Africa, south India, southern AsiaAnnular
14 Nov 2031Pacific Ocean, Central AmericaHybrid
9 May 2032Southern Ocean, no significant landfallAnnular
3 Nov 2032Eastern Europe, eastern and western RussiaPartial
30 Mar 2033North Pole, Alaska, eastern RussiaTotal
23 Sep 2033South PolePartial

Summary

While this post is meant to equip you with knowledge of when the eclipses occur, you cannot completely prepare for the splendor of these cosmic coincidences.

Eclipses give you a chance to watch the solar system at work right in front of your eyes; of the Moon around Earth and Earth around the Sun.

Irrespective of how many times you have seen it, the awe when an eclipse begins, the regret when it ends all too soon, and the ecstasy of witnessing it all cannot be jammed into strings of words. You can only experience it and store the bittersweet memory till the next one comes rolling in.


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