Stars, planets and more will be visible during the total solar eclipse on April 8. This is the place to look

An observer who is in the path of totality or near the solar eclipse on April 8 can make useful observations of the appearance of the projected moon’s shadow on the The Earth’s Atmosphere, before, during and after mid-eclipse. Also, studies of the dark sky can be valuable.

At the time of a total eclipse, the moon’s umbra crosses the earth in an ellipse, its main (long) axis pointing in the direction of the sun. Because the shadow is moving quickly, its appearance is constantly changing. A careful description of the sky from moment to moment near totality is of interest, especially observations of the shadow of the moon seen against the sky as it approaches just before totality and recedes just after it.

For the upcoming eclipse, a few minutes before the onset of totality, a prominent shadow should appear, mimicking an approaching storm, moving from the west-southwest sky and towards the observer.

Related: How to give yourself the best chance of clear skies for the April 8 solar eclipse

You can watch the total solar eclipse live here on And keep up with all the action with our full live solar eclipse 2024 updates blog.

Exotic colors and lighting

I have often been asked, why bother traveling to an eclipse? My answer is always the same: “You have to see one for yourself, and then you will understand.” Astronomy writer Guy Ottewell planned to create a picture of the 1983 eclipse visible from Borobudur in Java. He later wrote in his book, “The Origin of Eclipses:

“During the minutes of totality, I knew I was in another visual world; trying to memorize colors for which I had no names, which would be so difficult to remember or describe as taste.”

For those who saw the full phase, the moonand a shadow overhead appears dusky blue (if there is none clouds), and the light from outside its edge creates a bright border around the sky. The saffron tint of air outside an eclipse shadow may be quite noticeable. Since air scatters long wavelengths of light less than short ones, the light from outside the shadow is yellow or red, the exact color depending on the distance from the edge of the shadow to the observer. At 50 miles or more, the bright red glow is pronounced and the bright speckled glow is low. Since at the upcoming eclipse, a person can be as far as 50 to 60 miles (80 to 100 kilometers) from the edge of the shadow – if located on the center line of the eclipse path – some vivid coloring may occur to be seen, especially towards the north-west and south-east at the center of totality.

the sky is glowing yellow and orange on the horizon and the sun is eclipsed in the sky.

the sky is glowing yellow and orange on the horizon and the sun is eclipsed in the sky.

A view from outside the path of totality

Related stories:

— What if it’s cloudy for the solar eclipse on April 8?

— How long will the total solar eclipse last in April?

— Why you don’t need to reach the midline for April’s total solar eclipse — and what will happen at the edge

Outside the path of totality, even far away, the moon’s shadow can sometimes be seen projecting against the atmosphere. At the eclipse of July 9, 1945, the shadow was visible near the horizon from Portland, Oregon, 320 miles (515 km) west of the point where the total eclipse first occurred at sunrise. Also, at the eclipse on October 2, 1959, which was total in eastern Massachusetts, the shadow was visible on the northeastern horizon to an observer only 15 miles (24 km) northeast of New York City. The smaller the distance from the path of totality, the better the chance of seeing the shadow.

There are several methods of observing the amount of darkness in the central eclipse. One way is to notice the smallest amount of news paper that is readable. This can be done even when the sky is overcast, but the type and extent of cloud cover should be carefully recorded. Also, good all-sky photographs are useful and even better than visual techniques (using a fish-eye lens or wide-angle convex mirrors), or photometric measurements with a photoelectric meter.

Another way is to note the faintest visible star or planet.

Cameo appearance by stars and planets

the eclipsed sun and the planets and stars around it are labeled as white dots on a black background.the eclipsed sun and the planets and stars around it are labeled as white dots on a black background.

the eclipsed sun and the planets and stars around it are labeled as white dots on a black background.

When the sun completely eclipsed, the sky (as many astronomy guides suggest) does not appear “as dark as a moonlit night.” Rather, it gets as dark as it is about 20 to 40 minutes before sunrise or 20 to 40 minutes after sunset. In such a sky, Venus is usually very visible, and other bright planets and 1st-magnitude stars near the sun have also been reported.

Venus is by far the brightest object visually size -3.9. On the day of an eclipse, it will be located about 15 degrees to the west (lower right) of the sun. Your fist is clenched at arm’s length about 10 degrees, so Venus It will be located about “a fist and a half” from the sun. Jupitersecond in brightness to Venus at magnitude -2.0, will lie 30 degrees to the east (upper left) of the sun.

There will be other planets around, but whether they will be easily visible is debatable. Saturn (magnitude +1.1) and Mars (magnitude +1.2), respectively, 35 and 36-degrees to the west of the sun. Little mercury It will be standing half a dozen degrees to the east of the sun, but at a very faint magnitude of 4.3, so it will be invisible.

As far as the stars are concerned, this eclipse will give you a great opportunity to measure the brightness of the sky since the bright stars of the winter season will be well positioned across much of the eastern sky. There is a low towards the southeast Sirius, the brightest star at magnitude -1.5. If, however, you are located along the path of totality in Texas or Mexico, you will not see it because it will be below the horizon. Capella (+0.1 magnitude) will be high in the north-northeast, while Rigel (+0.2 magnitude) will be much lower in the southeast. A few fainter first-magnitude stars may be visible here and there, but the light from the corona as well as the general dispersion of light filtering in from outside the umbra will extinguish most of the stars.

Then again. . .

But maybe it’s not all your time to pick out the stars and planets. Known aficionado of the stars and constellations was George Lovi (1939-1993), who wrote the popular “Rambling Through the Skies” column in Sky & Telescope magazine for over two decades. Mr. Lovi often commented on the beauty of a completely eclipsed sun as viewed through binoculars or even through the telephoto lens of a camera. “The human eye has an unparalleled ability,” he wrote, “to see subtle details within the inner and outer corona, in a way that no emulsion can.”

But then he would also argue about the people involved in what he called “sometimes ridiculous efforts” to hunt the stars and planets during the total phase of the eclipse. “Some of the donors spend almost every precious minute searching!” he would say, adding, “I can’t for the life of me imagine how this compares to the main event!”

To that end, I would agree with Mr. Lovi (I myself have traveled to 13 eclipses in total); you would probably end up spending a good portion of your entire precious time focusing on seeing the solar corona.

As one person later told me after spending all his time trying to photograph a total eclipse without success:

“I have, therefore, come to a conclusion, and it shows a little wisdom, gained at great expense and hardship, which I feel bound to pass on to other enthusiasts, and that is, the best way to simply see an eclipse. LOOK AT IT!”

This is perhaps the best piece of advice for anyone planning to view a total solar eclipse. So remember, if you get your chance at one, indeed, just SEE it and ENJOY it.

After all, even in 2024, a few minutes of surprise is all you’re going to get!

To see this whole event safely, you need to use sun filters. Only those on the path of totality will be able to remove them briefly to see the sun’s crown with their naked eyes. Those who are not on the path of wholeness must keep them all the time.

Everyone viewing the partial phases of this eclipse – and for those outside the path of totality, that’s the entire event – will need to wear eclipse sunglasses and cameras, telescopes and binoculars will need solar filters. compare his lenses.

Our How to observe the sun safely The guide tells you everything you need to know about safe solar observations.

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