A adult man and two teenagers observe the 2017 total solar eclipse in Oregon, USA. They are all wearing eclipse glasses and gazing up at the sky. Photo by NASA/Aubrey Gemignani.

Observing the Total Solar Eclipse: Resources for Educators

On Monday, April 8, 2024, the Moon will slip between the Sun and Earth, blocking out the Sun's light for several minutes and briefly turning day to night. In this moment, it's said that crickets start chirping, birds fly home to roost, and human observers burst into tears from the beauty—all completely natural reactions to a total solar eclipse.

As far as astronomical events go, total solar eclipses hold a mythical status among professional and amateur astronomers alike. Lunar eclipses have their place, but it's the total solar eclipse that really impresses. Although one is visible from somewhere on Earth almost every other year, a total solar eclipse can be seen from the same location only every 360 years or so, on average. So when (if) one happens in the skies above your neighborhood, consider taking a moment to watch it. (And use the proper eye protection to do so, of course!)

Seven NASA employees observing the 2017 total solar eclipse in Idaho Falls, Idaho. Each person is wearing eclipse-viewing glasses and smiling while looking skyward at the eclipse.
NASA employees observe the total solar eclipse using eclipse-viewing glasses in August 2017. Photo by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Also contributing to the eclipse's mystique is the incredible coincidence that makes it possible in the first place. The Moon is roughly 400 times smaller and about 400 times closer to Earth than the Sun, which allows the Moon to almost entirely block out the Sun when the two line up. This oddly perfect overlap affords scientists the opportunity to study the Sun and its corona—the outermost part of the Sun's atmosphere—without being overwhelmed by the usual intensity of the Sun's rays.

A total solar eclipse, showing the Sun being completely blocked by the Moon, except for the Sun's bright corona, which shines outward around the edge of the Moon.
The total solar eclipse as seen on Monday, August 21, 2017, above Madras, Oregon. A total solar eclipse swept across a narrow portion of the contiguous United States from Lincoln Beach, Oregon, to Charleston, South Carolina. Photo Credit: Aubrey Gemignani/NASA.

This year's total solar eclipse will be visible within a narrow band—the "path of totality"—that stretches across North America, from western Mexico to eastern Canada. Check out the map below to see if and when totality occurs in your area. Outside of this path, a partial solar eclipse will still be visible, to varying degrees.

If you're elsewhere in the world during this eclipse, you may get your chance to see another soon enough: the next total solar eclipse happens in 2026 and will be visible in parts of Europe, followed by another in 2027 that's visible in the Middle East and North Africa. (Find future eclipse dates here.)

A map of the April 2024 total solar eclipse, showing the path of totality that extends across Mexico, the United States, and eastern Canada.
A map of the April 2024 eclipse's path of totality, showing where and when the Sun will be completely blocked by the Moon. Outside of this path, a partial solar eclipse will be visible, to varying degrees. Image by Michala Garrison/NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio.

Educational Resources

Eclipses are an endlessly fascinating phenomenon to learn about. Explore the learning pathways below to find out more about solar eclipses, including ways to incorporate the science of eclipses into classroom learning. If you're a teacher looking for eclipse glasses, inquire with a local library; they may still have glasses available.

Total Solar Eclipses | NASA

In this pathway, learn about the different types of solar eclipses, see the stages of an eclipse, discover how to view one safely, model an eclipse in the classroom, and more.

Where Did the Sun Go? | PIER Investigations

In this pathway, students can analyze and interpret data from the investigation to find patterns in how their location in North America will determine if they will see a total or partial solar eclipse on April 8, 2024.

We hope that those of you in the path of totality have clear skies on April 8th! If you take pictures or videos of the eclipse, be sure to share them and tag us (@LabXchange) on social media!

Written by
Chris Burnett
Digital Content Specialist

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