Things to do on April 8

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Millions of people will see the sun darken at midday when a total solar eclipse occurs across a wide swath of the United States, Canada and Mexico on April 8.

This amazing astronomical phenomenon will last only four minutes and 28 seconds, although this is twice the duration of the last total solar eclipse in 2017.

A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the Earth and the sun, temporarily blocking the sunlight. This time, the moon will reach its closest point to Earth in April on the day before the eclipse, which means that the total eclipse, or the period during which the moon completely covers the sun, will last longer.

“It takes a while for the moon to slide over the sun, cover it, and then slide off,” said Shauna Edson, an astronomy educator at the Smithsonian National Aeronautics and Space Institution. “It usually takes 2.5 to 3 hours for the entire eclipse to occur.” museum.

This phenomenon will not be repeated again until 2044, according to the American “space” website NASA.

The totality of the eclipse will pass over part of northern Mexico before crossing into the United States, and its path will extend through Texas and pass through parts of the Midwest and East Coast before reaching southeastern Canada and heading out to sea, according to a map from NASA. Dallas, Indianapolis, Little Rock, Arkansas, Cleveland, and Buffalo, New York, are all directly in the dark line.

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About 44 million people living in the 115-mile-wide path will face total darkness.

“We're really lucky here on Earth because our moon is about 400 times smaller than our sun, but it's also about 400 times closer,” Edson said. “So when they line up perfectly, the moon will cover the bright part of the sun.”

The rest of the United States will see a partial eclipse, as the further you are from the path of the total eclipse, the more the sun will be seen as the moon passes through it.

more: Your guide to the full moon of 2024: supermoon, solstices, equinoxes and more

How to watch the eclipse safely

Many people have heard warnings against looking directly at the eclipse. Astronomers advise viewers to always look through a pair of specially designed glasses.

“It blocks 99.99% of the sunlight, and the sun will be the only thing you can see through it,” Edson said.

Amateur astronomers should also remember not to look through a regular telescope without a special filter, Edson said. “If anyone is using a solar telescope, you just want to make sure it's someone who knows what they're doing,” Edson said.

However, for those who are in the path of a total eclipse, it is safe to view the phenomenon without special glasses for only four and a half minutes when the moon completely covers the sunlight.

“At that point, the bright part of the sun is completely covered,” Edson said. “The dangerous part of the sun is blocked and you can look at it directly with your eyes.”

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In those few moments, observers may be able to see the edges of the sun's atmosphere, Edson said. “Maybe you can see a few rings of gas near the edges,” she added.

more: Monthly Skywatcher's Guide through 2024: Lunar eclipses, comets and meteor showers

Eclipse lovers are making big plans

Eclipse viewers across the country are gearing up for the big day with a wide range of events planned to celebrate the four-and-a-half-minute show.

The Air and Space Museum will collaborate with other Smithsonian museums to bring the Solar Eclipse Festival to the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on April 8 at noon local time. “There will be solar telescopes, along with lots of different ways to view the sun and the eclipse safely,” Edson said.

Other activities will encourage visitors to “explore the relationship between the Earth, the Sun and the Moon” through scales and models of astronomical objects, Edson said.

Astronomers and stargazers in the path of totality have plans in motion to make the most of this rare event.

Brian Tobias, director of the Curtis Vaughan Jr. Observatory at the University of Texas at San Antonio, said he plans to take a group of student observers to look for the perfect spot to capture the totality.

Celebrations at the university will begin the night before, with “pre-eclipse” parties, one of which was booked nearly a year in advance. “We're actually holding a stargazing event in one of the neighborhoods that was smart enough to contact us about a year ago, and we'll do some stargazing for them the night before,” Tobias said, provided the sky is clear. .

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Carbondale, Illinois, home of Southern Illinois University, is lucky enough to be in the path of totality for the second time in a row after the 2017 solar eclipse. The university will restore its facilities Eclipse Festival at the Crossroads of Southern Illinoisfeaturing music, a 5K run, and an arts and crafts fair.

Some Texas music fans will get a festival double feature on April 8. Ground Zero Music FestivalIt lasts for five nights from April 5 to 9, and is located directly in the path of totality in Bandera, Texas, about 50 miles northwest of San Antonio.

The Texas Eclipse Festival, located in the rural Reveille Peak Ranch next to Lake Buchanan on the Colorado River, features a star-studded lineup of musicians, DJs and speakers planned over four days. According to the Festival website13 organizers from all over the world will participate to transform camping grounds into a “global eclipse village.”

Some plan to fly into the air to get a closer look at the impact. A local vineyard in Fredericksburg, Texas, a city about 75 miles west of Austin, will hold a festival offering hot air balloon rides after a VIP dinner. According to its website.

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