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On 08 April 2024, a total solar eclipse is expected to take place at the Moon’s ascending node, which will be visible across North America. Due to its expected visibility from America, the eclipse will also be called as Great North American Eclipse (also Great American Total Solar Eclipse and Great American Eclipse).

Solar Eclipse & Total Solar Eclipse

A solar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes between Earth and the Sun, thereby obscuring the image of the Sun for a viewer on Earth.

A total solar eclipse occurs when the Moon’s apparent diameter is larger than the Sun’s, blocking all direct sunlight, turning day into darkness.

Totality occurs only in a narrow path across Earth’s surface, with the partial solar eclipse visible over a surrounding region thousands of kilometres wide.

Pictorial representation of Solar Eclipse

Solar Eclipse 1

Total Solar Eclipse

Solar Eclipse1
Phenomena only visible near the totality. Source: Time & Date

On average, one total solar eclipse happens every 18 months, when:

  • There’s a New Moon, At the same time, the Moon is at (or very near) a lunar node, so the Earth, the Moon, and the Sun line up in a straight (or nearly straight) line,
  • And the Moon is near perigee.(The Moon’s orbit around Earth is elliptical. The point of the orbit closest to Earth is called perigee, while the point farthest from Earth is known as apogee.)

Five Phases of Complete Solar Eclipse:

Partial eclipse begins (First contact):

The Moon becomes visible over the Sun’s disk. It looks like the Moon has taken a bite out of the Sun.

Total eclipse begins (Second contact):

The Moon covers the entire disk of the Sun, and observers are now within the Moon’s umbra, the darkest part of the Moon’s shadow. A diamond ring effect and Baily’s beads are visible just before totality.

Totality and maximum eclipse:

The Moon completely covers the disk of the Sun. Only the Sun’s corona is visible. This is the most dramatic stage of a total solar eclipse. At this time, the sky goes dark, temperatures can fall, and birds and animals often go quiet. The midpoint of time of totality is known as the maximum point of the eclipse.

Total eclipse ends (Third contact):

The Moon starts moving away, and the Sun reappears. Those fortunate enough to be in the Moon’s umbral can see Baily’s beads and the diamond ring effect just after totality ends.

Partial eclipse ends (Fourth contact):

The eclipse ends as the Moon leaves the Sun’s disk.

Pictorial representation of the phases of Total Solar Eclipse

Total Solar Eclipse

Path of Total Solar Eclipse

The total solar eclipse will begin over the South Pacific Ocean. The first location in continental North America that will experience totality is expected to Mexico’s Pacific coast at around 1107 hours Pacific Daylight Time (PDT). The path of the eclipse continues from Mexico, entering the United States in Texas, and traveling through Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. Small parts of Tennessee and Michigan will also experience the total solar eclipse. The eclipse will enter Canada in Southern Ontario, and continue through Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Cape Breton. The eclipse will exit continental North America on the Atlantic coast of Newfoundland, Canada, at 1716 hours Newfoundland Daylight Time (NDT).

Path

The moon’s shadow first touches Mexico at Mazatlan. Then it travels northeast through Mexico and enters the United States at Texas, cuts a diagonal all the way across the country to Maine, and
then visits the maritime provinces of Canada.

The major cities inside the path are Mazatlan, Torreon, San Antonio, Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Indianapolis, Cleveland, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, and Montreal.

The ovals in the map show the shadow of the Moon at five minute intervals. This path is called the path of totality.

Table with time that totality begins in some US cities in the path of totality. These areas will also experience a partial eclipse before and after these times.

Impacts of the total Solar Eclipse:

  • Travel disruption:
    • Disruptions in air travel caused by the eclipse would be experienced from 04 April at 0600 hours local time until 10 April hours at midnight.
    • The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) estimates the days leading up to the eclipse will be some of the busiest travel days of the season, with 50,670 flights on Thursday 04 April and 48,904 flights on 05 April 2024.
    • A significant number are travelling to various states to witness ‘The Great North American Eclipse’ on 08 April, therefore those flying along the eclipse path may encounter limited parking and potential delays at airports due to the high volume of aircraft and drones seeking to witness the total solar eclipse.
  • Solar flares: Solar flares and strong magnetic fields can be expected during the total eclipse. Solar flares can produce streams of highly energetic particles in the solar wind or stellar wind, known as a solar particle event. These solar particles can impact the Earth’s magnetosphere which can cause radiation hazards to spacecraft and astronauts. The energetic protons collide with satellites or humans in space can penetrate deep into the object that they collide with and cause damage to electronic circuits or biological DNA.
  • Disruption to pipelines: Pipelines can also face several problems, as the rapidly fluctuating geomagnetic fields can produce geomagnetically induced currents in pipelines. Thereby, the pipeline flow meters can transmit erroneous flow information and can cause increase in the corrosion rate of the pipeline dramatically.
  • Disruption of communication system: The possibility of satellites in the Earth’s upper atmosphere getting impacted by incoming solar flares prevails. This could directly impact GPS navigation, mobile phone signal and satellite TV, as high frequency communication systems use ionosphere to reflect radio signals over long distances. These electrons create a layer near the bottom of the ionosphere that can absorb High Frequency (HF) radio waves making radio communication difficult or impossible.
  • Disruption of electricity grid: Long transmission lines (many kilometres in length) are subjected to damage due to the Solar flares, as a geomagnetically induced current may produce in conductor when magnetic fields move about in the vicinity of a conductor such as a wire. This may widely impact telephone as well as telegraph lines before fibre optics, especially for operators in North America, especially in modern high-voltage, lowresistance lines in comparison to the European grid that mainly consists of shorter transmission circuits, which are less vulnerable to damage during the Solar flares.

Recommendation:

  • Advised to view the sun through eclipse glasses or a handheld solar viewer during the partial eclipse phases before and after totality.
  • Advised to cater for travel delays or flight cancellations.
  • Avoid non-essential air travel (if possible) and due diligence must be taken while travelling.
  • In case of essential travel, consider checking with flight operators before planning travel, as there is a likelihood of air traffic disruptions due to high footfall especially along the eclipse path or countries experiencing the direct view of the eclipse.
  • Advised to keep the electronic devices and essential appliances fully charged or backed up ahead of the power cut.
  • Advised to wear protective clothing, sunglasses that provide 99 to 100 percent UV-A and UV-B protection that will greatly reduce eye damage from sun exposure.

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