10 Surprising Facts About the Upcoming 2024 Solar Eclipse

On Monday, April 8, 2024, North America will witness a total solar eclipse, providing a breathtaking spectacle for those fortunate enough to be in its path or willing to travel to see it.

A solar eclipse transpires during the new moon phase, when the moon aligns between Earth and the sun, casting a shadow on Earth and either completely or partially blocking the view of the sun. Although an average of two solar eclipses occur annually, a particular location on Earth typically only experiences a total eclipse once every 375 years on average.

“Eclipses themselves aren’t rare, it’s just eclipses at your house are pretty rare,” notes John Gianforte, director of the University of New Hampshire Observatory, in an interview with TIME. While it is unlikely to witness an eclipse in one’s hometown, traveling to a location within its path presents the opportunity to experience multiple eclipses. Gianforte, who has already seen five eclipses, plans to travel to Texas this year for the best weather conditions.

Observing an eclipse offers a unique social experience. “They may yell, they scream, they cry, they hug each other, and that’s because it’s such an amazingly beautiful event,” remarks Gianforte, who also serves as an extension associate professor of space science education. “Everyone should see at least one in their life, because they’re just so spectacular. They are emotion-evoking natural events.”

Here are 10 intriguing facts about the science behind the phenomenon, what makes the 2024 solar eclipse unique, and what to anticipate.

The total eclipse originates in the Pacific Ocean and culminates in the Atlantic Ocean 

The darker, inner shadow cast by the moon is known as the umbra, which offers the opportunity to observe a rarer total eclipse. The outer, lighter shadow is referred to as the penumbra, under which a partial eclipse can be seen in a wider range of locations.

The total eclipse commences at 12:39 p.m. Eastern Time, just over 620 miles south of the Republic of Kiribati in the Pacific Ocean. The umbra remains in contact with Earth’s surface for three hours and 16 minutes until 3:55 p.m. when it ends in the Atlantic Ocean, approximately 340 miles southwest of Ireland.

The umbra enters the U.S. at the Mexican border just south of Eagle Pass, Texas, and exits just north of Houlton, Maine, with one hour and eight minutes between entry and exit, according to information provided by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to TIME via email.

Mexico will witness the longest totality during the eclipse 

The longest totality will persist for four minutes and 28 seconds along a 350-mile-long path near the eclipse’s centerline, including west of Torreón, Mexico.

In the U.S., certain regions of Texas will experience total eclipses of near-equal duration. For instance, in Fredericksburg, totality will last four minutes and 23 seconds—a duration that slightly increases with travel westward, as reported by NASA to TIME. Most locations along the centerline will experience totality lasting between three and a half minutes and four minutes.

More people currently reside within the path of totality compared to the previous eclipse 

An estimated 31.6 million individuals reside in the path of totality for the 2024 solar eclipse, compared to 12 million during the one that crossed the U.S. in 2017, according to data from

The path of totality is significantly wider than in 2017, and this year’s eclipse will traverse more cities and densely populated areas than the last one. 

A portion of the sun that is normally hidden will reveal itself

Solar eclipses offer a glimpse of the corona, the outermost atmosphere of the star that is typically indiscernible to the human eye due to the sun’s brilliance.

The corona consists of wispy, white streamers of plasma—charged gas—that emanate from the sun. The corona is significantly hotter than the sun’s surface—approximately 1 million degrees Celsius (1.8 million degrees Fahrenheit) compared to 5,500 degrees Celsius (9,940 degrees Fahrenheit).

The sun will be near its more dramatic solar maximum 

During the 2024 eclipse, the sun will be approaching “solar maximum.” This represents the most active phase of an approximately 11-year solar cycle, which may result in more prominent and noticeable solar activity, according to Gianforte in an interview with TIME.  

“We’re in a very active state of the sun, which makes eclipses more exciting, and [means there is] more to look forward to during the total phase of the eclipse,” he explains. 

Observers should anticipate an extended, active corona with more spikes and potentially some curls, as well as keep an eye out for prominences, pink explosions of plasma that erupt from the sun’s surface only to be drawn back by the sun’s magnetic field, and streamers emanating from the sun.

Streamers “are a beautiful, beautiful shade of pink, and silhouetted against the black, new moon that’s passing across the disk of the sun, it makes them stand out very well. So it’s really just a beautiful sight to look up at the totally eclipsed sun,” says Gianforte.

Two planets—and possibly a comet—could also be visible

Venus will be visible 15 degrees west-southwest of the sun 10 minutes prior to totality, according to Astronomy. Jupiter will also appear 30 degrees to the east-northeast of the sun during totality, or perhaps a few minutes beforehand. Venus is anticipated to shine more than five times brighter than Jupiter. 

Another celestial object that may be visible is Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF), located approximately six degrees to the immediate right of Jupiter. Gianforte reports that the comet, characterized by its distinct circular cloud of gas and a long tail, has been “really putting on a great show in the sky” in the lead-up to the eclipse.

The eclipse can induce a “360-degree sunset” 

A solar eclipse can trigger a sunset-like glow in all directions—known as a “360-degree sunset”—which may be perceptible during the 2024 eclipse. This effect is caused by the sun in areas outside of the path of totality and only persists as long as totality lasts.

The temperature will drop 

When the sun is obscured, the temperature experiences a noticeable decline. During the previous total solar eclipse in the U.S. in 2017, there were reports of the temperature dropping by as much as 10 degrees Fahrenheit. In Carbondale, Ill., for instance, the temperature fell from a peak of 90 degrees Fahrenheit just prior to totality to 84 degrees during totality.

Wildlife may exhibit altered behavior 

When the sky abruptly darkens, mimicking nighttime conditions, animals can become bewildered. “Deer, rabbits, dogs, cats, birds become startled and confused,” notes Gianforte.

During the 2017 eclipse, researchers observed that many flying creatures began descending to the ground or other perches up to 50 minutes before totality. Seeking shelter is a natural response to storms or weather conditions that pose potential threats to small flying creatures, the report suggested. Then, immediately before totality, a group of flying creatures exhibited another behavioral change—suddenly taking flight before swiftly returning to their perches once again.

There will be a protracted wait for the next total eclipse in the U.S.

The next total eclipse in the U.S. is not anticipated until March 30, 2033, when a total eclipse will be visible from parts of Oregon and Mexico. The next eclipse in the 48 contiguous states is projected to occur on Aug. 12, 2044, with sections of Montana and North Dakota experiencing totality.