Total Solar Eclipse 2024: Path of Totality Across Americas!

total solar eclipse guide, where when and what to expect in 2024 total eclipse of the sun

Everything you need to know from a veteran eclipse chaser

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Why is the April 8 total eclipse a big deal? Totality lasts over four minutes, and 32 million Americans will be on the path! Totality won’t happen again on U.S. soil for 20 years. See Bob Berman’s excellent guide with eclipse times and more information.

Your next chance in the U.S. won’t happen until August 12, 2045. Learn how often solar eclipses occur.

The 2024 Total Eclipse Guide

To me, the total solar eclipse experience tops the list of nature’s most incredible celestial events that you could witness from Earth’s surface. Most people are awed by a brilliant comet, which happens every 15 to 20 years on average. And also by a bright display of the Northern Lights. One might include the rare bolide or exploding meteor. But the very best of them all—number one—is a total eclipse of the Sun.

Yes, the total eclipse tops them all. Watching deep pink geysers of nuclear fire shoot from the Sun’s edge, you feel nature’s absolute climax has been attained. It’s not only an otherworldly experience but also an incredible cosmic coincidence. How else do we explain that the Moon is 400 times smaller than the Sun but also 400 times nearer to us? This makes the only two disks in our sky appear the same size! It would not be the case if either were larger, smaller, nearer, or farther away.

I’ve run astronomy tours for years, and half of the clients I’ve taken to see total solar eclipses have wept. Real tears. From the sheer emotional impact of what their eyes were beholding. Will a lunar eclipse make you weep? Will a peek at Mars through a telescope? No, they won’t. This experience manages to touch your very core. “The home of my soul!” is how Rita Marinelli described the solar eclipse she viewed with our group on February 16, 1980, from northeastern India. 

What is a Total Solar Eclipse?

Witnessing solar totality tops the list of nature’s most phenomenal wonders. 

During a TOTAL solar eclipse, the Moon completely blocks the Sun while it passes perfectly between the Earth and the Sun. A shadow is cast onto Earth, and the sky turns nearly as dark as night. 

The sun’s corona gleams a total solar eclipse in 2012 as viewed in Australia. (Credit: Romeo Durscher via NASA)

What is the 2024 Path of Totality?

The total solar eclipse on the afternoon of Monday, April 8, 2024, should be the most watched total solar eclipse in history, which is very exciting for all school children and science geeks like myself.

Why? The “path of totality” on which you can see totality is wider and more populated than the 2017 eclipse. Over 32 million people live on the path of totality, compared to 12 million in 2017—nearly three times as many people. 

Also, tens of millions of people in North America live near the path of totality so that they can travel easily to the path.

NASA path of eclipse totality
Click to see map details. Credit: NASA

This path is a 100-mile-wide ribbon from the southwest to the northeast corner of North America. It starts in Mexico and then crosses through Dallas, Little Rock, Indianapolis, Cleveland, Buffalo, and Burlington (VT)—with San Antonio, Austin, Cincinnati, and the Canadian city of Montreal lying just at the edge of the 120-mile-wide eclipse path,
Then, the Moon’s shadow heads rightward across northern New Hampshire and Northern Maine, even skimming parts of several Canadian provinces.

Interactive Map to See the Eclipse Map

It’s very important to place oneself within the map of totality (see interactive map below). Even 95% doesn’t cut it. You’d observe the glories of totality if you were in Cleveland or Burlington, Vermont, but not if you were in Albany, New York. So, traveling into the path of totality is the most important thing you can do. 

Zoom into the Google map to see a local area. Use your two fingers to adjust the map.  

How Long Will the 2024 Eclipse Last?

This time, the Moon will completely block the Sun for over 4 minutes in some areas. The maximum duration will be 4 minutes and 28 seconds of totality!

For comparison, the maximum length of totality for the 2017 total solar eclipse to cross the continental U.S. was just 2 minutes 42 seconds. So, the 2024 total solar eclipse will be nearly twice as long. 

The Sun Will Be More Active in 2024

In 2024, the Sun is nearing what is called the “solar maximum” of its traditional 11-year cycle and is very active. Back in 2017, the Sun was in a calm phase. 

This means heightened solar activity and a much better chance of seeing giant streamers, prominences, or even a solar eruption. See our article on Solar Cycle 25 Heating Up.

What Time is the Total Solar Eclipse?

The April 8 total solar eclipse occurs in the afternoon. Below are some of the major cities which will experience totality. 

If you’re looking for specific times for your zip code, see the NASA site.

chart of when the eclipse will be visible from various citiesA Partial Eclipse Doesn’t Cut It

Biggest mistake? It’s believing your local paper when it says, a few days ahead that, “We’ll see the eclipse right here in Denver!” Staying home because you’ve read that “the eclipse will be visible from my backyard” amounts to blowing your opportunity because such statements nearly always merely apply to the partial eclipse. 

If you read the fine print and realize that it will only be a “90% eclipse” in your hometown, a partial eclipse, you might decide that that’s good enough. After all, the fractions 90% or 95% may seem close enough to 100% to seem a negligible difference, not enough to justify all that travel. Right?    

Wrong! Though many imagine that the main draw of a total eclipse is to experience darkness during the day, the actual wonders are a series of rare, bizarre phenomena that materialize at no other time. A partial eclipse, even if the Sun is 99% blocked, misses the event’s heart and soul because the most amazing stuff happens solely at totality. 

People along the path of totality will see the Sun’s corona, or outer atmospheric glow, which is usually not visible due to the Sun’s brightness. The corona forms delicate magnetic lines that leap across the sky. And they will see the pitch-black New Moon as it visibly moves in its orbit to intrude upon the Sun! And then there are the prominences—those astounding pink tongues of flame—as they fly up from the Sun’s edge! It’s like nothing else.    

If you’re outside the path, you will merely see a partial eclipse, which will simultaneously be seen from a much huger region. A partial solar eclipse is a common event and barely 1% as spectacular as a total solar eclipse. Solar eclipses are different. That’s because an avalanche of unique effects suddenly unfolds in totality. With a partial eclipse, nothing appears because you then can’t look at the Sun at all without damaging your eyes. Instead, you’re looking through black eclipse glasses, seeing the Sun partially blocked out so that it looks like a crescent Moon. This goes on for a full hour and is the only thing that occurs if you’re not in the total eclipse path. See definitions of a partial versus total eclipse.

But is the partial eclipse interesting, at least? Well, sort of. You can personally answer this because you’ve probably already seen one or more since partial solar eclipses happen every few years from all locations. Anyway, lots of things are interesting, but we’re not here for interesting. We’re steering our ship toward “amazing!” toward “life-changing!” And for that, you need totality.

When can you look at a solar eclipse? Read more in our article on eclipse eye protection.

Get Eye Protection in Advance

You absolutely must wear eye protection for the long partial eclipse stage leading up to totality, specifically a special super-dark filter bearing the international standard ISO 12312-2. 

  • Most such modern eclipse glasses are cardboard with floppy plastic filters. They deliver a nice orange image of the Sun but scratch easily, so be careful when handling them. See the American Astronomical Society’s guide for approved eclipse glasses.
  • Alternatively, recent studies by the School of Optometry and Vision Science in Waterloo, Ontario, and by Rick Feinberg of the American Astronomical Society, published in the September 2021 issue of the Astronomical Journal, support the safety of welders filter shades 12, 13, and 14. These all safely allow 6.9 hours of continuous sun viewing. But no lower number shade is safe.

With my own eclipse tours, which date back to 1970, I’ve always supplied welder goggles. Now, with nearly a year’s advance notice, you’d have no trouble ordering as many as you’d like from your local welding supply store.

What Happens During a Total Solar Eclipse?

Those in the path of the last US total solar eclipse on August 21, 2017, know the marvels that arrive with a solar totality.  

Want to know more about the experience?  The 2024 total solar eclipse begins with an hour-long prologue for people in the right place. As the Moon slides between the Earth and the Sun, it does not cover the Sun. Rather, the Sun will appear as a crescent shape. 

This prologue is a “partial” eclipse; remember that a partial eclipse can only be safely viewed using eye protection. 

a partial solar eclipse
A partial solar eclipse, Washington D.C., June, 2021. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls


A good idea is to put down your eye filter when the Sun has been reduced to a thin crescent, but only to view your surrounding countryside. Colors are saturated, shadows are stark, and contrast is ramped up. Look for dark shadow bands moving along the ground or on the sides of buildings. Ordinary objects like cars seem somehow unfamiliar as if illuminated by a different kind of star than the Sun. It’s other-worldly.

As the Moon makes its final move across the Sun, you may notice points of light around its perimeter. Called Baily’s Beads, these rays come from the Sun streaming through the valleys along the Moon’s horizon.

baileys beads in a total solar eclipse
Bailey’s Beads, Total Solar Eclipse of August, 2017. Credit: NASA/Gemignani

Right at the beginning of totality (and at the very end), a single bright spot may shine out. It’s called a Diamond Ring. The image below may help you understand why.

diamond ring in a total solar eclipse
The Diamond Ring from the August 2017 total solar eclipse. Credit: NASA/Thomas

When the hour-long partial eclipse ends, the sight through your filter will be pitch black. This means totality has begun, and now you have up to about four minutes to observe the Sun directly or even through binoculars.

  • Look for the corona, the Sun’s outer atmosphere, which forms a glowing ring of light surrounding what seems like a black hole in the sky where the Sun used to be.
  • Observe the inky-black new Moon.
  • Look and listen to animals behaving strangely.
  • And be sure to look closely around the black Moon for pink prominences—glowing geysers of nuclear flame. These are often small and best seen through binoculars or a small telescope. Since pointing a telescope and having it accurately track the Sun is occasionally time-consuming, and you don’t want to waste a second, binoculars may be the best bet. Image-stabilized models are the best of the best.

A note of caution: If you’re using binoculars, even one second of binocular use when totality is over can damage your retina. For maximum care, use binoculars for only a minute or less during the middle of totality. You’ll know from maps how long the totality will last from your location. Say it’s three minutes. This means you can look at it directly during the first and last minute and reserve binocular use for the middle minute.

Finally, beyond the mind-numbing natural phenomena of the corona, the prominences, and the odd lighting, there’s the magical, otherworldly feeling that consumes all onlookers. It’s ineffably powerful. About half the people observing solar totality weep from the sheer beauty and emotional power of it. “The home of my soul” is how one woman summarized the 1980 total eclipse from northeastern India.

But this time, you don’t have to make a pilgrimage to India or Australia like we did in 2012, Libya like in 2006, or Chile like we did in 2021. Famed NASA eclipse predictor Fred Espenak told me he once ran panting at full frantic speed along a dirt road in Africa, trying and succeeding in keeping the eclipsed Sun visible through a tiny opening between moving clouds.

You won’t have to do that. The 2024 Total Solar Eclipse is right here at home.    

See my 10-minute countdown explaining what you should see at each stage of the total solar eclipse!

Best Places to See the 2024 Eclipse

Will the weather cooperate with clear skies during the 2024 eclipse?

  • Looking at the eclipse map, the high population in the northeast and upper Midwest seem like tempting locations for millions of people. However, long-term satellite data show these regions suffer from 70% or greater cloud cover averages during April afternoons.
  • The clearest weather is in the Mexico section of the eclipse path, and it gets progressively less predictable as you travel the path north. However, high crime rates there will make many gravitate to the next-clearest zone, Texas. You could try to book a hotel or B&B in a town in totality’s path close to the Mexican border up through central Texas.

See our eclipse weather article about the chance of cloud cover for cities across the U.S.

It might be a good idea to take the day off from work and catch this one! It’s a bit of a bother, sure. But the reward is nothing less than the most amazing thing you have ever seen.

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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