The first total solar eclipse in nearly a century not only has injected a much-needed sense of awe towards astronomy into our culture, but also has introduced a golden age of eclipse watching. In the 21st century, 10 total solar eclipses will send the moon's shadow over U.S. soil, with six of these events passing over vast swaths of the country.
The next one occurs on April 8, 2024, a brief intermission of only seven years, and will cut a path from Mexico to Texas to Maine and the maritime provinces of Canada. Nicknamed "The Great North American Eclipse," 13 states will find themselves squarely within the narrow path of totality. Cities like San Antonio, Dallas, Little Rock, Indianapolis, Cleveland, Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse will likely witness a healthy influx of eclipse chasers.
Extremely lucky sites such as Carbondale, Illinois, Cape Girardeau, Missouri, and Paducah, Kentucky will find themselves at the intersection of this year's eclipse and the April 2024 one, thus enjoying two total solar eclipses in only seven years.
While the 2024 total solar eclipse will certainly offer new opportunities for those states missing out on this year's lauded "path of totality," it's the duration of totality that will have eclipse-o-philes counting down the days. For the 2017 eclipse, the duration of totality will last between 20 seconds (over Kansas City, Kansas) to a maximum of two minutes and 40 seconds (over Carbondale, Illinois). The 2024 eclipse by comparison will average just under 4 minutes (4 minutes 27 seconds in Texas) along the path of totality.
As American writer and editor Mabel Loomis Todd proclaimed over a century ago, those additional seconds to experience the wonders of totality will most certainly be worth getting excited for.
"I doubt if the effect of witnessing a total eclipse ever quite passes away," she wrote. "The impression is singularly vivid and quieting for days, and can never be wholly lost. A startling nearness to the gigantic forces of nature and their inconceivable operation seems to have been established. Personalities and towns and cities, and hates and jealousies, and even mundane hopes, grow very small and very far away."
The biggest wild card working against the 2024 eclipse is, like other celestial events, the weather. While the 2017 eclipse benefits greatly from one of the best weather months of the year in August, the 2024 event will occur during a seasonal transition marked by the rhyme "April showers bring May flowers." April 2016 was the second-wettest in the U.S. on record. Will the weather of April 2024, especially one exacerbated by climate change, follow a similar pattern?
Whatever eclipse you choose to witness totality for, the good news is that you have options. After the 2024 event, the next closest rounds of total solar eclipses over the U.S. will occur on March 30, 2033; Aug. 23, 2044; Aug. 12, 2045 and March 30, 2052.