What to Look For During the 2024 Total Solar Eclipse: 10-Minute Countdown!


The total solar eclipse of November 14, 2012, as seen from aboard the cruise ship Paul Gauguin in the South Pacific near New Caledonia. This sequence runs from lower right to upper left. During the partial phases before and after totality, the camera lens was covered by a safe solar filter. No filter was used during totality, which is about as bright as the full Moon and just as safe to look at. The background is an unfiltered, wide-field view of the ocean and sky during totality, showing sunrise/sunset colors along the horizon.

Photo Credit
Rick Fienberg/TravelQuest International/Wilderness Travel

Step-by-step guide to 2024 eclipse day

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The 2024 Old Farmer's Almanac

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Bob Berman presents his 10-minute countdown to the total solar eclipse on April 8, 2024. If you’re wondering exactly what to look for, here’s what you’ll see at 10 minutes, 5 minutes, 2 minutes, 1 minute, and totality!

First things first. If you plan to see the total solar eclipse from beginning to end (as captured in the above photo), I assume by now that you know it’s essential to be 100% on the path of totality. See my complete Guide to the Total Solar Eclipse for more information.

 See an Interactive Google Map of the 2024 Eclipse Path.

Eclipse Timetable

Below is a table with the select cities on the path of totality. Find your eclipse times by zip code on the NASA site.

Find eclipse timetables for more locations on the NASA site.

What to Look for During the 2024 Eclipse

For all locations, the entire solar eclipse experience begins with an hour-long prologue called the partial eclipse

The first contact occurs when the Moon’s leading edge touches the right edge of the Sun’s disk. Look for that first nibble!

NOTE: During the hour-long partial eclipse leading up to the great event, you must keep your eclipse glasses or filter on, protecting your eyes. Learn more about safe solar filters for eye protection 

A partial solar eclipse is seen as the Sun rises behind the United States Capitol Building on June 10, 2021. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

The real spectacle starts about 5 to 10 minutes before totality begins, so be aware of the time of totality at your location and keep a close eye on your wristwatch or phone.

Countdown to Totality

10 Minutes!

About 50 minutes in—ten minutes before totality—the Sun looks like a crescent. Put the filter down for a moment and pay attention to your surroundings. (Do NOT look at the Sun.) 

  • The light is noticeably dimmer and starts to take on an odd or eerie “tint.” Ordinary, familiar objects like houses and cars now seem bizarre. Colors look more saturated, and contrast is boosted. Shadows are stark. 
  • Temperatures start to cool.
  • Notice your own shadow. Can you see the shadows of individual hairs on your head or arms?
  • Now look for Venus and Jupiter, which should appear as the skies darken. Venus is the lower right of the Sun, and Jupiter is the upper left.
Viewing the August 2017 eclipse. Credit: NASA/Josh Krohn 

5 Minutes!

  • Starting about five minutes before totality, the light on everything is visibly reduced. It seems more yellow, almost orange, and the shadows of bushes or trees now contain countless bizarre glowing crescents.
  • Notice how the temperature is dropping.
  • Look at the reaction of animals. They may suddenly quiet down as if it were time to sleep.
  • Clouds on the horizon will go dark as the Moon’s shadow sweeps over them. Can you see the oncoming umbral shadow approaching from the southwest?
  • Take a look at the Sun through your filter now. The Sun, which has looked like a crescent for some time, now has that crescent shrinking into an extended point.
Bizarre crescent shapes during partial eclipse. Credit: fedcomite

2 Minutes!

  • Look again at the ground around you. Two minutes before totality, all-white surfaces—or a sheet if you’ve spread it in front of you—may suddenly be filled with eerie, wiggly black lines. These are the legendary shadow bands. They cannot be photographed. Any video or still picture you take will later show no sign of them! Shadow bands are caused by atmospheric refraction of the thin solar crescent just prior to second contact and/or immediately after third contact.

1 Minute!

  • At one minute before totality, the shadow bands reach their maximum display, the light on everything is most stark, and the illumination sharply fades.
  • If you’re near nature, you may notice that flower petals are closing and birds are settling down to sleep.
  • As the light drops further, start taking quick glances at the Sun directly, without a filter. It’s important that these be momentary, half-second glimpses because the Sun is not yet safe to stare at. 
Last glimmer of the Sun during August 2017 eclipse above Madras, Oregon. Credit: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani

30 Seconds!

Just before totality, look for Baily’s Beads and the diamond ring.

  • The Baily’s Beads effect happens when the Moon makes its final move over the Sun. Sunlight peeks through the deep valleys and craters of the Moon’s rough terrain just before the total phase of the eclipse.
  • If you’re using a telescope or binoculars to observe the beads, keep your solar filters on. If not, take the filters off once the number of beads dwindles to two.
Bailey’s Beads. Aug 21, 2017 eclipse above Oregon. Credit :NASA/Aubrey Gemignani.
  • The diamond ring effect occurs at the beginning of totality.  As the last bits of sunlight pass through a deep valley on the Moon’s limb (edge), we see the faint inner corona—the ring—around the Sun becoming visible. It looks like a ring with glittering diamonds on it.
Put a ring on it! The diamond-ring effect. Credit: NASA/Carla Thomas
  • As the diamond beacon vanishes, it’s safe to remove your eclipse glasses or solar filters. 
  • Take only quick glimpses of this at a time. If you instead glimpse full sunlight, look away immediately and try again 20 seconds later with another half-second glimpse.

The purpose of all this is to catch totality the moment it begins and not to miss any of it. When totality begins, no direct sunlight remains, just the ink-black new Moon surrounded by the creamy but dim glow of the solar corona. Check your timepiece to confirm. Totality has begun.


Filters off! Yes, now you can stare at the Sun. While you can NOT look directly at the Sun during the eclipse’s partial phases (and must keep those glasses on), you can take off the glasses now. “If you leave the filters on, you won’t see anything at all,” says Fred Espenak, a retired NASA astrophysicist who has been to 27 total eclipses. It’ll be too dark.

You should see a black Sun (like a hole in the sky) surrounded by a white halo (the solar corona).

Photo of the Solar Corona During Totality. Credit: Rick Fienberg / TravelQuest International / Wilderness Travel. 


  • You may use binoculars to see the details but only use them during the first half of totality. You don’t want to accidentally get any direct returning sunlight into your eyes through the binoculars when totality ends.
  • As totality begins, look immediately for a red layer along the Moon’s advancing edge; this is the Sun’s chromosphere and will soon disappear.
  • During that first minute of totality, point binoculars at the eclipsed Sun and look for deep pink flames shooting from its edge. These are prominences—geysers of nuclear flame.
An eclipse allows us to see solar prominences: brilliant red arcs, loops, and jets of hot gas. Credit: Rick Fienber.


  • Using the naked eye or binoculars, look for structure in that glow surrounding the Moon. Any fine filaments or lines are the magnetic field lines of the Sun, a wondrous sight that is normally invisible.
  • The corona, with its filamentary structure and pink prominences, are the main totality features you are looking to observe. 
Solar prominences at August 2018 eclipse above Madras, Orego. Credit: NASA/Audrey  Gemignani
  • But you will also feel an astonishing, unique sense of vibration or presence to the whole thing.  The feeling is ancient and will be like nothing else you have ever experienced. Let this experience in and savor it rather than intellectually trying to figure it all out.
  • You might also look around the sky for any stars to be out. Certainly, Venus and Jupiter will be there.
  • But don’t worry much about your surroundings. You don’t need to be viewing from a mountain top or some other place of natural beauty. The totality will grab your focus and be a complete package of unspeakable beauty. The foreground you choose is nice but not vital to the experience.
  • A few seconds before totality’s end, an arc of chromosphere will re-emerge along the Moon’s receding edge at the right/bottom right. Put your eclipse glasses back on! 

Forget About Taking Photos!

One more important tip is NOT to spend too much time with photography! Eclipse experts must bracket their images using a range of exposures and f-stops on their cameras. They use at least a 200mm telephoto lens and usually a 400mm for even more magnification. And, of course, a tripod. And even then, a lot of fancy processing and image combination is needed afterward. 

People who spend their totality minutes fiddling with their f-stop dials always regret it afterward. So know that expert images will be available after the eclipse, and they will be much better than anything you can create. Don’t even try! (Do your photos of the Moon ever compare to the real feeling?) In this case, totality only lasts a precious few moments.

Another factor is your soundtrack. You will find totality to be one of the most sacred experiences of your life. I think it’s best experienced in silence. But some really enjoy the excited chatter of a group, which invariably includes commentary and exclamations. It’s not bad per se, but know that you won’t get a second chance. So, decide ahead of time what you want. I informed our tour members that I would be unavailable during totality. If you’re in a large group, decide ahead of time whether you want to observe it with silence and one-pointedness or in a matrix of conversation.

The End of Totality

Another diamond ring will mark the end of totality. Some say you shouldn’t watch it, but every astronomer I know does indeed watch it and marvel at its beauty, if only for a moment. However, as that brilliant spot of returning Sun, the diamond, grows more and more intense, put your solar viewers back on. 

Baily’s Beads may reappear as the Sun peeks through valleys along the Moon’s bottom edge. Then, the beads and arcs merge into a crescent. Watch the crescent Sun grow over the next hour or so as the Sun returns daylight and warmth to the Earth.

Here is a wonderful video by Dr. Becky Smethurst showing you more of the eclipse experience.

In practice, totality is so astounding that few people bother to observe more than a few minutes of the hour-long partial eclipse that appears after totality. Instead, everyone tries to recall that wondrous thing they experienced. But they can’t.

The magical feeling fades and does not return until the next total solar eclipse!

About The Author

Bob Berman

Bob Berman, astronomer editor for The Old Farmer’s Almanac, covers everything under the Sun (and Moon)! Bob is the world’s most widely read astronomer and has written ten popular books. Read More from Bob Berman

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