What you’ll see during April 8 total solar eclipse

We’ve now reached the one-week warning in the countdown to the Great American Eclipse, which will be the last total solar eclipse to cross a significant portion of the U.S. for two decades.

On Monday, April 8, the moon will pass between the sun and the Earth, darkening the sky in a brief, rare, twilight-like display that experts say will leave viewers gobsmacked.

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While many people across the U.S. will observe a partial eclipse, millions are expected to watch this historic event along the eclipse’s path of totality: the traveling arc of the moon’s shadow within which observers will see the sun’s disk completely covered. But what exactly will they see?

This NASA illustrates the path of totality for the April 8, 2024 total solar eclipse.

According to NASA, a total solar eclipse has several distinct stages that include dazzling phenomena. Under clear skies, from a viewing location within the path of totality, here’s what observers can expect to experience:

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(Note that solar eclipse glasses and solar filters for phones and cameras are necessary for viewing all parts of a total solar eclipse except for the brief moments of totality. Eclipse glasses are necessary for viewing all parts of this eclipse if you’re watching from outside the path of totality.)

Partial eclipse: As the moon starts to pass between the sun and the Earth, the sun will take on a crescent shape. In most places, this phase will last between 70 and 90 minutes.

Shadow bands: A few minutes before totality, you may see long, rapidly moving bands of darkness separated by white spaces on the sides of buildings or the ground. These mysterious bands may appear distinct or faint, depending on your location, and are the result of Earth’s upper atmosphere distorting the suddenly sharp-edged sunlight, much like our atmosphere causes starlight to twinkle.

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Bailey’s Beads: As the moon creeps closer to completely covering the sun, short-lived points of light like little beads will shine around the moon’s edges, caused by sunlight streaming through the craggy valleys along the moon’s horizon.

Diamond ring: Just before totality, the beads will disappear, leaving a single bright spot along the edge of the moon’s shadow. When combined with the now-visible circle of the sun’s atmosphere, the effect is like a brilliant diamond ring.

Totality: When the diamond ring disappears and there is no more direct sunlight, this is the moment of totality. With the sun’s face completely covered by the moon, viewers may be surrounded by a 360-degree sunset, see stars and planets in the false twilight, feel the air temperature drop, and observe an eerie silence. This is when it is finally safe to remove eclipse glasses and look at the total eclipse with the naked eye, NASA says, but be sure to put them back on before totality ends (which may be after just a minute or two in some locations; you can find the duration of the eclipse from your location here).

After totality: You’ll begin to see some brightening on the opposite side of the sun from where the diamond ring was. It’s crucial to make sure your eclipse glasses are back on now. The post-totality part of the eclipse will mirror the pre-totality highlights, but in reverse: You’ll see the diamond ring, Baily’s Beads, shadow bands and a crescent-like partial eclipse before the entire event is over and the sun is once again fully visible.

For more on what to expect during the eclipse, visit science.nasa.gov/feature/solar-eclipse-guide.

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