The Rochester Museum & Science Center (RMSC) and the Rochester Eclipse Task Force are already planning for the total solar eclipse that will occur on April 8, 2024. This will be one of the most important celestial events for skywatchers around the world, and Rochester, NY, will be in the path of totality for 3 minutes 38 seconds! Cities across the country made the most of the 2017 total solar eclipse and this is our chance to do the same.
About the 2024 Total Solar Eclipse
What’s happening on April 8, 2024?
On Monday, April 8, 2024, there will be a total solar eclipse, and Rochester, NY is in the path of totality. In a solar eclipse, the moon gets between the Sun and Earth. In a total solar eclipse, people who are in the path of totality see the Sun’s bright disk totally covered by the Moon for a short time.
What will we see from Rochester?
The Moon will begin to cover the Sun at 2:07 pm. Using a safe solar viewing method, we will see more and more of the Sun covered by the Moon over the next 73 minutes. This time is called a partial phase because the Sun is partially covered by the Moon. Totality begins at 3:20 pm and lasts 3 minutes 38 seconds (plus or minus a few seconds, depending on your exact location). After totality, the Moon gradually uncovers the Sun in a second partial phase. The eclipse ends for Rochester viewers at 4:33 pm.
Why is this a big deal?
A total eclipse is one of the rarest and most spectacular events in nature. During the partial phases just before and after totality, the landscape around you is transformed by eerie dim light and strangely sharp shadows. During totality, the sky becomes as dark as deep twilight, bright stars and planets appear, and the Sun’s outer atmosphere, called the corona, shines around the black disk of the Moon’s silhouette. Changes in temperature, winds, and animal behavior occur during the time around totality. The experience is emotionally powerful and unforgettable.
What’s up with shadows, umbra, penumbra, etc?
The Moon always casts a long shadow into space. Sometimes, as the Moon goes around Earth, that shadow sweeps over Earth. That causes an eclipse as seen by viewers on Earth. The Moon’s shadow has a dark inner part, called the umbra, and a larger, fainter outer part, the penumbra. As seen from space, the shadow on Earth appears as a small black spot (the umbra) surrounded by a large gray blob (the penumbra). Any Earth-based viewer who is in the umbra sees the Sun totally eclipsed; viewers in the penumbra see the Sun partially eclipsed.
Are solar eclipses dangerous?
Like hiking in the woods, riding a bicycle, or cooking on an outdoor grill, eclipse viewing is safe, enjoyable, and worthwhile if you equip yourself with some basic information and take simple precautions. To prevent eye damage, do not look directly at the Sun during the partial phases of an eclipse. (You wouldn’t normally do that anyway, but during an eclipse, the Sun is more interesting than usual.) Don’t look into a mirror at a reflected image of the Sun. Instead, look through a filter or “glasses” made specifically for solar viewing, or project the Sun’s image onto some surface.
It is safe to look directly at the Sun without viewing equipment during the brief time of During totality. There are no such things as dangerous rays that come only during eclipses.
Where else will this eclipse be total?
This eclipse will be total as seen from a 122-mile-wide path of totality extending from Mazatlan and Durango, Mexico to Dallas, Cleveland, Buffalo, Rochester, Watertown, and Plattsburgh; parts of the Montreal area, northern Maine and New Brunswick.
Where in our sky will the Sun be at eclipse time? I need to know if a nearby building or tree will block my view.
Good question! As seen from western New York at mid-eclipse, the Sun will be in the southwestern sky, a little more than halfway up from the horizon to the overhead point. See “How You Can Prepare for 2024“.
When was the last total solar eclipse in Rochester?
Rochester’s last total solar eclipse was on January 24, 1925. Are you trying to remember a past eclipse? See “Eclipses you might remember”.
Does the fact that Rochester gets total eclipses in 1925 and 2024 mean that total eclipses repeat every 99 years?
No. There are patterns of repetition for eclipses, but they are more complicated than saying that any one place sees an eclipse every so many years.
How rare is this?
For Rochester or any other single location, rare; globally, not so rare. There are at least two solar eclipses every year, and there can be as many as five. In many eclipses, the Moon’s shadow passes over the oceans or polar regions, where few people are watching. For most of the others, the Moon’s shadow does not come near Rochester. Jean Meeus, a world-renowned expert on astronomical calculations, found that a random point on Earth sees either a total or annular eclipse on average every 140 years. But that is only an average. The actual timing of eclipses at one location is irregular. For example, Carbondale, Illinois is about to experience two total eclipses just seven years apart (2017 and 2024), then not another one until the twenty-fourth century!
I don’t live in Rochester, but I’m in the area. Will the timing of the eclipse be different for me?
Probably. The closer you are to the centerline of the path of totality, the longer totality will last for you. Because there is so much to see and feel during totality, it is worthwhile to travel to a place with a few seconds more. Please see a map of the path. If you are outside the path of totality, you will not get the experience of a total eclipse. A partial eclipse is not the same experience at all. We suggest you make plans to travel to the path of totality. No one who has experienced a total eclipse regrets the effort.