Amy Martin shares what to watch for during the awe-inspiring event.​Totality image. Courtesy of NASA.

April 3, 2024

Many thousands will gather in North Texas on April 8, some coming from other states and countries, to see the total solar eclipse. Most will focus on what's occurring on the solar face as the Moon slides before it, occulting the Sun from view.

Such a pity. That's not where the real show occurs. That extravaganza will be happening around you, in the light and shadows, the shifting of winds and temperature, the behavior of animals, and more.

By focusing on the slow dance of the New Moon's black disc across the roaring Sun, which you can watch afterward on endless videos, you miss the Big Event — the shadow of the Moon, more than 100 miles wide, screaming at you at you at 1580 to 1850 mph from the southwest.  

The Moon's shadow will zoom at about 1,560 and 1,600 mph through Mexico. By the time it exits North America, it will race more than 3,000 mph. Over the Atlantic Ocean, the Moon's shadow will exceed 6,000 mph.


Early predictions are for overcast skies. For the eclipse period, Weather Underground predicts 70 percent cloud coverage with potential thunderstorms starting to ramp up around 2 pm. But weather is changeable. 

Best bet is to get a weather app like Weather Underground, which provides hourly predictions of cloud cover, wind, temperature and more. Also use one with superior radar like Storm Radar, whose paid version will make visual weather predictions about 10 hours into the future. 

Study the total solar eclipse path, look at weather radar visualizations, and make a plan for alternate viewing locations. 


The writer and friends in Nebraska at the 2017 total solar eclipse. Courtesy of Amy Martin.

To experience this darkness immersion best, locate yourself with a clear view of the southwest — the direction of the eclipse path, aka the path of the New Moon's shadow.

On this continent, the eclipse path goes from Mazatlán, Mexico, on the Pacific coast to the very easterly edge of St. John's, Newfoundland, and Labrador. It will take approximately two and a half hours to cross the continent.

The shadow is not uniform. It's deeper and darker in the center — called the umbra — which Dallas, Ennis and other totality cities are lucky enough to be in. The edges of the shadow are termed the penumbra.  

Those who seek total solar eclipses and relish the shadow phenomenon are called umbraphiles. 

The slower the lunar shadow's speed, the longer the totality. The most lengthy totality periods—more than four minutes — occur from Texas to Indiana. Totality is longest for those in the umbra center and shortest along the total eclipse path edges, in some areas less than a minute.

You don't need stupendous scenery — a cattle pasture will do — but overlooking a large lake is perfection. Better yet, be in a boat, but be careful of the wind changes. However, an elevated place with an open southwest view enhances viewing of the sky phenomenon.

But even umbraphiles appreciate the solar occultation. The eclipse happens midday, so the Sun will be nearly at its zenith. Use a chair that you can lean well back in. Your neck will thank you.


Be sure to wear safe eclipse glasses during the eclipse. Photo by Julie Thibodeaux.

Some eclipse glasses last less than 30 minutes of Sun-staring before the lenses degrade. Generally, the more you pay for the eclipse glasses, the longer they last — especially those rated ISO 12312-2 safety standard  — so be careful with the free ones. Reusing eclipse glasses from 2017 can depend on how they were stored and for how long. More on eclipse glasses.

This is important because degraded or poor-quality eclipse glasses can damage your eyes. Staring at the Sun, even for a few seconds, can cause permanent damage. Since there are no pain receptors in the retina, you won't feel it happening. Damage ranges from blurry or distorted vision to blind spots.

Do not look at the Sun through any optical device while using paper eclipse glasses or viewers. 

Use a solar filter to watch the eclipse through cameras, binoculars or telescopes.

Want to experience a total solar eclipse with your dog? Rare is one that enjoys the experience. They've been known to take off running as totality approaches, and you’ll miss the experience while regaining your dog. If you bring a dog, ensure they're on a leash and hold it tight.


In a solar eclipse, the 1,056-mile-diameter Moon can completely obscure the 869,919-mile-diameter Sun 92.5 million miles away. That's some lunar female superpower and the ultimate metaphor for the power of nonviolent resistance.

Our Moon is some 400 times smaller than the Sun but about 400 times closer to the Earth, so when these two celestial bodies are aligned, they appear to be the same size.

Solar eclipses can only occur at New Moons, when the Moon in its orbit around the Earth is conjunct with the Sun, essentially between the Sun and Earth. This is why the New Moon is not visible — it has its back to the Sun so no sunlight can reach its face. Only at the New Moon can it slip in front of the Sun's face to obscure it, casting a mighty shadow as it does. What a trial by fire!

Solar eclipses are the only time we can see the New Moon. The blackness you see when you look at the eclipsed Sun is the New Moon.

Graphical representation of total solar eclipse. From WikiCommons, created by Sanu N. Graphical representation of total solar eclipse. From WikiCommons, created by Sanu N. 

So why aren't there solar eclipses at every New Moon? Because our solar system is off its rocker. Most astronomical diagrams show the planets whirling about the Sun in a neat orderly plane with the planetary satellites also obediently level.

In reality, our solar system is all akimbo. Most planets are a few to several degrees inclined to the galactic plane, and their satellites are not level, either. Nor are they circular. Instead, orbits are oval, meaning the planets are sometimes furthest away from the Sun, an annual event called aphelion, and sometimes closest, called perihelion.

The same goes for planetary satellites such as the Moon, whose close-in spot is called perigee and far-out spot is apogee. A total solar eclipse must occur on or close to lunar perigee. Annular solar eclipses, when most of the solar corona is visible, and partial solar eclipses happen when the Moon is further out.

For an eclipse, lunar or solar, the orbits of the Sun, Moon, and Earth must line up perfectly. It's a miracle that any of it lines up at all.

Now add in one more factor: the size of our Moon. It's enormous, about one-quarter the size of the Earth. No other planet has a moon so relatively large to its size. Jupiter has a moon as large as our Moon, but it's teeny compared to the gas giant.

If sentient beings on nearby planets existed, they would flock to Earth to witness this rare and exceptional phenomenon. Imagine the astrotourism business Earth would enjoy!

Earthlings should enjoy solar eclipses while they can. Eclipses will change as the Moon continues to move away from Earth, a few centimeters a year.

Flying Around the 2024 Eclipse Shadow

Animation of the path of the Moon's shadow during the 2024 solar eclipse. Courtesy of NASA Goddard.


While in North Texas, totality — complete coverage of the solar face — lasts around four minutes, the process takes much longer.

Monday, April 8, in North Texas, total solar eclipse process:

    •    Process begins: 12:23 pm CDT

    •    Totality: 1:40 to 1:44 pm CDT

    •    Process ends: 3:02 pm CDT

Total process time: 2 hours, 39 minutes

Totality: 3 minutes, 52 seconds

See Time and Date's animation of the process.

About 90 minutes to totality:

The partial phase of the eclipse begins. Take glimpses as a curved slice of the Sun goes dark as the New Moon slides over it.

About 45 minutes to totality:

Twilight time! Once the Sun looks like a fat crescent. A silvery sheen infuses the sunlight. Shadows start to become diffuse and waver as if reality is dissolving. Crescent-shaped shadows emerge beneath trees — tiny projections of the eclipse. Watch for changes in animal behavior. If you're lucky enough to be present with species that herd or flock, observe how they draw closer to each other as if prepping to bed down for the night. Songbirds might chatter incessantly as they do just at dusk.

Watch NASA's animation of totality across North America. Courtesy of NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio.

About 30 minutes to totality:

Half the solar face is dark, like a quarter Moon, but the edge is curved. Eclipse twilight deepens. It will feel slightly cooler but might be hard to detect in the mid-day heat. In a whole-bodied way, be aware of changes in the wind caused by the temperature differential. It could get gusty. Nocturnal animals like opossums, raccoons, bats and owls may emerge from their daytime resting places. Crickets, katydids and frogs might begin their evening chorus of chirps and songs. Diurnal wildlife tends to react as if it is dusk: chickens may return to coops and birds to their roosts and bees may return to hives and holes.

About 15 minutes to totality:

Sunlight takes on a silvery sheen that is liberating. The slight polarizing imparts a surreal timelessness. A stippled light makes everything shimmer. Notice how the lowlands ripple with an argent glow if on a high spot. Slow-motion twilight deepens.

About 10 minutes to totality:

Even with mid-day heat, the chill will be unmistakable by this point. Wind gusts caused by temperature contrasts lessen. Turn to the southwest and watch. It's exciting to spy the totality shadow as it first appears, slightly darkening the horizon.

About 8 minutes to totality:

Color drains from surroundings just as at dusk, replaced by a deep selene haze. There are no hard edges, as if the world is dissolving. A stunning sunset glow radiates up from the horizon, wavering in shades of red, orange, and purple.

About 5 minutes to totality:

The solar face is almost entirely dark. The scant light that squeezes through appears polarized, imbued in silver grey and light blue. Anticipation is palatable. Silence surrounds — wildlife is still, even insects. Be with them.

About 2 minutes to totality:

The Moon's shadow looks like an immense ominous storm on the horizon, growing larger by the second. Planes may be chasing the shade, causing a disruptive roar. Life seems suspended.  

About 1 minute to totality:

The New Moon's shadow immerses all in an intangible obsidian sheen so fast it's disorienting. Allow yourself to submit to the celestial storm.


A view of the Aug. 21, 2017 total solar eclipse from Madras, Oregon. Photo courtesy of NASA | Gopalswamy.

Cast those eclipse glasses aside and look at the Sun. That black spot is the face of the New Moon — the only time we can see it, since it’s usually lost in the solar glare. Look for its familiar features—the craters, the mares the streaks.

The corona — the Sun's the outermost atmosphere — will appear. The feathery ring of light extends from the solar surface into the darkening sky. Look for flaring prominences of sunlight slipping through canyons on the Moon.  

If luck and light are with you, a thin, reddish-pink circle called the chromosphere, an atmospheric layer just below the solar corona, may appear around the Sun. Its color comes from hydrogen in the chromosphere.

The planets will pop out, tracing the ecliptic, much more evident than when the stars are visible. Venus, Saturn and Mars will appear east-southeast from the Sun-Moon. Mercury, so faint, will be above the Sun-Moon. Jupiter will be west-northwest. Above and to the right of Jupiter, if viewers are lucky, will be Comet Pons-Brook. Use a stargazing app like Star Walk to locate the ecliptic and its celestial bodies ahead of time.

The range of reactions is astonishing: roars and cascades of soul-deep belly laughter, deep sobs and tears, screaming, howling and endless amounts of "Oh my God!"

Emergence from a total solar eclipse. Photo by Jongsun Lee via Wikimedia Commons.

Then a light as brilliant as anything you'll see, an explosion of platinum, will flare at the edge of the solar face. The New Moon will start to slip away after the fastest four minutes of your life.


Submitting to the total solar eclipse is a spiritual act. The rising ecstasy, the radiant awe, the profound sureness and acceptance of our place in a universe of circles inside circles inside a gigantic spiral in the sky. We experience what it is to be human caught in a cosmic matrix, to know awe as no other creature can.

When I experienced the total solar eclipse of 2017 in Nebraska, I was struck by the darkness where a star should be — a hole in the sky. The eclipsed solar face beckoned as a portal to the infinite unknown. It was the embodiment of wu wei — pure potential. A reminder that most of the cosmos consists of dark matter, that we arise from the darkness of the womb and to the universal darkness we return. There is comfort and restoration in darkness.

I wanted it to go on forever, this point of time suspended between worlds, set in an amorphous surreality. Weeping overcame me as I saw my Moon revealing her darkness to me. She who taught me to persist through a childhood at times shot through with terror, whose changing phases showed that no matter how dark life could be, there is always renewal.

The New Moon made visible in a total solar eclipse. Photo by Michael S Adler, via Wikimedia Commons.The New Moon made visible in a total solar eclipse. Photo by Michael S Adler via Wikimedia Commons.

The total solar eclipse is the only time the New Moon is visible in her darkness, passing through her trial by fire. In tomorrow's sunset sky, she'll emerge as a whisper-thin crescent of hope, following the Sun into the horizon, drawing away 17 degrees every day until two weeks later it rises opposite the Sun as a Full Moon.

In that deep twilight, I accepted the hubris of my humanity. Submission to the eclipse is a spiritual initiation. As the lunar face occulted the Sun's, the desire to grasp and possess departed my soul, perhaps forever.

Take your time to leave. Revel in the experience. Don your eclipse glasses to see the barest slip of light manifesting and watch as the solar crescent swells. Let the light lift you with the energy of releasing joy.

Feel the happiness that radiates from watchers if we're all celestial bodies. Rest in the satisfaction that comes only with a profound connection to the universe and those around us — a euphoric experience.


April 8 will be North America's last total solar eclipse until 2044. The next lunar eclipse, which occur on Full Moons, will be March 14, 2025. A schedule of past and upcoming lunar and solar eclipses can be viewed here.

iNaturalist users, please note the changes seen in wildlife behavior. Join this project and submit your observations.


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