Total solar eclipse guide 2024: What time it is, where the path of totality is, how to watch it safely and more

In just a few hours, sky-gazers in North America will be treated to a total solar eclipse that will briefly turn day into night for tens of millions of people from Mexico to Canada.

Monday's eclipse will be at least partially visible in 49 states, with Alaska being the lone exception, and entirely visible in 15 states from Texas to Maine.

Follow live here: Total solar eclipse 2024: Live updates

When is the eclipse happening, exactly?

The timing varies depending on your location (see chart below), but it will begin in Texas shortly after noon local time, in Maine about a quarter after 2 p.m. ET.

For those along the so-called path of totality, the moon will cross in front of the sun for nearly four-and-a-half minutes (268 seconds to be exact), or roughly twice as long as the annular eclipse that occurred back in 2017. As it does, the sky will darken and the sun’s fiery edges, also known as the solar corona, will appear around the eclipsing moon, engulfing the Earth in shadow.

☀️ 🌤️ ⛅ Eclipse weather forecast

With April 8 upon us, meteorologists are offering local weather forecasts for total solar eclipse day.

In Austin, Texas, forecasters are calling for mostly cloudy skies during the morning hours, followed by thunderstorms in the afternoon. According to Yahoo Weather, there is a 65% chance of rain on Monday.

Similar conditions are expected in Dallas, though the chance of precipitation (75%) is significantly higher.

In Indianapolis, which is hosting what's being billed as the world's largest eclipse viewing party, at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the current forecast is for partly cloudy skies with a 11% chance of rain.

Sky gazers can expect slightly better conditions as they go northeast along the path of totality. In Burlington, Vt., it's expected to be partly sunny, with a high of 61 degrees. In Caribou, Maine, the forecast is for mostly sunny skies with a high near 58.

Click the link below for more detailed forecasts along the path of the eclipse.

Also see: Eclipse forecast: Where you'll be able to see it — and where viewing could be difficult

😎 How to view the eclipse safely

Except during the brief total phase, it is never safe to look directly at an eclipse without specialized eye protection. Looking at the intense light from the sun even for just a few seconds can cause permanent damage to the retina, the part of the eye directly responsible for vision.

"You can view the eclipse directly without proper eye protection only when the moon completely obscures the sun's bright face, during the brief and spectacular period known as totality," NASA explains. "You'll know it's safe when you can no longer see any part of the Sun through eclipse glasses or a solar viewer."

Solar viewing glasses have been selling out online, but don't fret: You can also view the eclipse through a pinhole projection box you can make with items you probably already have at home. See these safety guidelines for viewing solar eclipses.

When in doubt, just remember: Never look directly at the sun.

Read more:Here's what happens if you look at the eclipse — and how to see it safely

👀 How often do you see total solar eclipses?

They're pretty rare. Over the past century, only 13 total solar eclipses have been visible in the United States. And the next one, in Alaska, won't occur until 2033.

💦 Total eclipse fever

Anticipation for the celestial event is high. Some cities along the path of totality are looking to cash in on the excitement, offering special travel packages to view the eclipse, while other communities are bracing for an influx of eclipse seekers. Airbnb searches along the path of totality have been skyrocketing.

Texas is a prime eclipse destination, with Dallas and Austin both sitting along the path of totality, and San Antonio just outside. In Austin, city officials are expecting the eclipse to bring a million tourists to the area.

Related: Photos of people looking at solar eclipses from 1907 to the present day

🚨 Small towns brace for eclipse traffic

Numerous cities and towns within the path of totality are bracing for an influx of eclipse seeking tourists — and all of the logistical problems that come with it.

In Aroostook County, Maine, shop owners are feeling stressed about the thousands of visitors expected to flock to this remote northern community that borders Canada.

"It's a little new for us here, so it is stressful," Lindsay Anderson, manager of Brookside Bakery in Houlton, Maine, told the New York Times.

“Where are 20,000 people going to pee?” wondered Tom Willard, co-owner of Market Square Antiques and Pawn, which is next door to the bakery.

Read more: A quiet Maine county braces for the eclipse. 'Where are 20,000 people going to pee?'

Travis County, Texas, where Austin is located, issued a local disaster declaration ahead of the eclipse, requiring businesses and property owners hosting viewing parties with more than 50 attendees to register with the county.

Officials there are also encouraging residents to stay home on April 8 if they are able, to reschedule any nonurgent appointments for a different day and to put gas in their cars before the eclipse.

Indianapolis, Cleveland and Buffalo, N.Y., are also among the top eclipse-viewing cities, according to AAA.

✏️ Eclipse school closures

From Texas to Maine, hundreds of school districts within the path of totality have already announced they will be closed for the day.

In Texas, the Hays County school district had planned to be open and even purchased enough viewing glasses for all students so they could safely observe the eclipse, but later decided to cancel classes out of safety concerns for students.

Similar decisions were made by school districts in Vermont, where officials have said that up to 200,000 visitors could swarm the Green Mountain State on April 8.

"To put our students and staff even out on the roads there, it seems better just to have them in a place where they're safe and we're not adding to the confusion on the roads," Beth Cobb, superintendent of the Essex-Westford School District, told Vermont Public Radio.

🌎 Eclipse festivals

For communities within the 115-mile-wide path of totality, there are hundreds of eclipse events planned. Among them:

▶ In Rochester, N.Y., the Rochester Museum and Science Center has organized a three-day Eclipse Festival that will feature hands-on activities, live entertainment, speakers, eclipse merchandise, food trucks and more.

▶ In Niagara Falls, N.Y., the city is partnering with NASA on a series of free eclipse events and exhibitions leading up to the natural phenomenon.

▶ In Dallas, the Sun, Moon, and You Total Solar Eclipse Event at the Cotton Bowl Stadium will feature numerous activities and speakers, including noted astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. Elsewhere, guests of Dallas's Hôtel Swexan are invited to view the solar eclipse with complimentary glasses and a telescope on its 20th-floor rooftop. The hotel is also hosting a "Breathe Meditation and Wellness" event, where guests can participate in New Moon rituals, meditation and a restorative sound bath.

▶ In Grapetown, Texas, a Hill Country vineyard is offering hot air balloon rides for eclipse viewing from the air.

Also see: A list of solar eclipse events across the nation from Texas to Maine

✈️ Eclipse viewing flights

Several airlines are offering special eclipse viewing flights. Delta has scheduled two, including a "path-of-totality flight" that will depart Austin at 12:15 p.m. CT and land in Detroit at 4:20 p.m. ET, timed to give those on board "the best chance of safely viewing the solar eclipse at its peak" — from 30,000 feet.

Southwest and United are offering special eclipse-viewing flights too.

Read more: Why a plane might be the best place to view the eclipse

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