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Starts With A Bang

5 total mistakes to avoid at the April 8, 2024 solar eclipse

There are only a precious few minutes of totality during even the best solar eclipses. Don’t waste yours making these avoidable mistakes.
Solar total eclipse revealing the sun's pink chromosphere and prominences.
This image, of the Sun's inner corona and prominences on the Sun, was taken during the April 20, 2023 total solar eclipse. Exquisite views of what's occurring just off of the Sun's disk are best captured during a total solar eclipse.
Credit: Phil Hart
Key Takeaways
  • When the Moon passes directly between the Earth and Sun and is close enough to Earth for its shadow to fall on the surface of Earth itself, a total solar eclipse arises.
  • The shadow may be narrow and fast-moving across Earth’s surface, but for those along the center-line, up to 4 minutes and 30 seconds of totality are possible on April 8, 2024.
  • However, if you’re too busy making one of these five mistakes, you may miss out on enjoying the opportunity of a lifetime. Here are common pitfalls that everyone should avoid.

On April 8, 2024, millions of North Americans will enjoy a spectacular total solar eclipse.

map path totality eclipse april 8 2024
The path of totality of the April 8, 2024 total solar eclipse cuts from southwest Mexico up through Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and Canada. Everyone along the center-line of the eclipse in 2024 also experienced at least a partial eclipse on October 14, 2023, and a penumbral lunar eclipse on March 25, 2024.
Credit: Great American Eclipse, LLC

For up to 4 minutes and 30 seconds, the Moon’s shadow will bring darkness to the daytime.

The curvature of the earth viewed from space with parts of a space station in the foreground during a total eclipse.
This photograph from the International Space Station shows the shadow of the Moon falling on the Earth during a total solar eclipse. Although the Moon’s shadow passes rapidly over the surface of the Earth, the International Space Station moves more than twice as rapidly.
Credit: International Space Station/Reuters

Avoid these five common mistakes to make the most of your experience.

sun moon eclipse sky wide-field
This photograph, taken during the 2017 total solar eclipse, shows the Sun being eclipsed by the Moon during totality. Note how, although the sky is darkened closest to the Sun, the horizon is still illuminated by direct sunlight. The closer you are to the center-line of totality and the longer the duration of the eclipse, the darker the overall sky becomes, allowing observers to see fainter, dimmer objects. You will miss details such as this if you spend all of totality’s time attempting to photograph the eclipse.
Credit: Joe Sexton/Jesse Angle

1.) Don’t spend much time worrying about photography.

solar eclipse bead
This photograph of the eclipsed Sun during totality shows the asymmetric corona and the last remnant of a tiny bit of sunlight poking through a crater on the Moon: one of Baily’s beads.
Credit: Ricardo Garza-Grande

Totality is brief, and eclipse photography is very finicky.

solar corona during eclipse
The solar corona, as shown here, is imaged out to 25 solar radii during the 2006 total solar eclipse. The longer the duration of a total solar eclipse, the darker the sky becomes and the better the corona and background astronomical objects can be seen. Experienced, serious eclipse photographers can construct images such as these from their eclipse data.
Credit: Martin Antoš, Hana Druckmüllerová, Miloslav Druckmüller

Professional eclipse photographers will produce outstanding photographs, but every individual can enjoy a first-person experience.

Total solar eclipse with corona visible around the moon's silhouette, mistakes in observation are rare.
Although your unaided eye may be of use in spying details in the solar corona, only long-exposure eclipse photography, done at a professional level, can bring out details such as those exposed here in the inner corona during the 2009 solar eclipse.
Credit: Miloslav Druckmüller, Peter Aniol

2.) Don’t leave your eclipse glasses on during totality.

A group of people engaged in eclipse activities on the grass.
Either eclipse glasses, solar filters, or welder’s shades (that are at least shade 14 or darker) are all tools that humans can leverage to view the Sun directly during a partial or annular solar eclipse, or even during no eclipse at all. During totality, however, you must remove them, or you won’t see anything at all.
Credit: GPA Photo Archive

Once the Sun goes completely dark through your eclipse glasses, remove them.

A total eclipse with the moon blocking the sun, creating a corona effect.
To the unaided naked eye, the Sun’s corona may look similar to this, although it isn’t a static image, but rather one that’s clearly moving and changing as sunlight filters through our turbulent atmosphere. Two solar prominences, at the 12 and 5 o’ clock positions, can be seen.
Credit: James R. Guilford

If you leave them on, you’ll miss the unique visual show.

3.) Cease binocular/telescope viewing before totality ends.

woman tripod eclipse binoculars solar filter
A woman looks at the Sun through binoculars that have been fitted with solar filters over the outside lenses. During totality, it is safe to view the Sun’s corona with unfiltered telescopes or binoculars, but only if you ensure that you are not still viewing the Sun the instant totality ends or thereafter, as it can cause permanent eye damage and even blindness.
Credit: NASA/Ryan Milligan

Looking at a magnified view of any fraction of the unobscured Sun can cause permanent blindness.

Phases of a total eclipse showing progression to and from totality, including mistakes in visibility.
Just prior to and subsequent to totality, a series of points of sunlight known as Baily’s beads can be seen. This is unobscured, direct sunlight being partially blocked at the lunar limb by high crater walls. Baily’s beads, if magnified and looked at with the naked eye, can cause irreversible eye damage.
Credit: James West/flickr

The instant totality ends, protect your eyes with eclipse glasses for continued viewing.

People relaxing and looking up at a total eclipse near a parked marines jet aircraft at an outdoor event.
Once the totality phase of an eclipse ends, it is immediately unsafe to look at the Sun with the unaided eye. Putting your eclipse glasses back on, or using other sufficient eye protection, is the only safe way to view the Sun again.
Credit: REUTERS/Randall Hill

4.) Don’t merely use your eyes.

Crowd of people enjoying a total eclipse, capturing moments on their mobile phones.
It isn’t just the sight of the eclipsed Sun that’s notable during totality, but many other sensory aspects, including the behavior of humans and animals.
Credit: REUTERS/Brian Snyder

During totality, temperatures plummet, nocturnal animals emerge, streetlights turn on, and birds fall silent.

august 21 2017 total solar eclipse prediction
During an eclipse, the solar radiation reaching Earth’s surface plummets owing to the presence of the Moon’s umbral and penumbral shadows. Here, the path of the August 21, 2017 eclipse is shown. As the Sun becomes blocked, temperatures can plummet significantly.
Credit: NOAA / Earth Systems Research Laboratory

Take advantage of all of your senses.

Silhouettes of people observing the total eclipse with telescopes under the moon.
During a total solar eclipse, what you see is spectacular, but the sensations you’ll experience impact your entire body and should be taken in holistically.
Credit: REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

5.) Don’t focus on noticing one thing exclusively.

The phases of a total eclipse captured in sequence over a gathering of spectators.
The progression of the partially eclipsed Sun is shown throughout the sky, with a snapshot of totality as the main scene. Note the horizon glow and the presence of lit-up streetlights, as though it were night, during totality.
Credit: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani

Enjoy the Sun’s active corona, daytime stars and planets, sunset-like horizons and more.

Total eclipse over a forested horizon at dusk.
A panorama of the 2012 solar eclipse shows a region of darkness falling across the daytime sky, surrounded by the bright region where the Moon’s eclipse shadow does not land.
Credit: Jan Sládeček/Miloslav Druckmüller

Totality is brief, but resplendent. Enjoy it fully.

Snow-covered landscape during a total eclipse in Adventdalen valley, Spitsbergen, Svalbard.
This photograph, snapped during the 2015 total solar eclipse, showcases regions of shadow and light along the horizon, as the eclipsed Sun appears blocked by the Moon. To the left, planet Venus is visible during totality. Photographs can only capture a fraction of the experience.
Credit: JD Droddy/Paul D. Maley

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