Skip to main content

Solar Eclipses

Solar eclipse hero without text overlay
Photo Credit: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani.
NASA solar eclipse diagram showing positions of Earth Moon and the Sun

What is a solar eclipse?

During a solar eclipse the the Moon passes between the Sun and Earth and blocks all or part of the Sun.  

This is different from a lunar eclipse, when the Earth blocks most of the sunlight that normally reaches the Moon. In a solar eclipse, the Sun gets darker; in a lunar eclipse, the Moon gets darker.  Visit our lunar eclipse page to learn more.

Watch this NASA video to learn more about the different roles of the Moon in lunar and solar eclipses.

During a total solar eclipse, the Moon lines up perfectly to fully block the Sun; in a partial solar eclipse, the Moon only blocks part of the Sun; and during an annular eclipse, alignment is perfect but the Moon is too far away from the Earth to completely obscure the Sun. 

More about solar eclipses: https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/eclipses


Upcoming eclipses viewable in North America

https://www.timeanddate.com/eclipse/
 

Two major solar eclipses are coming to North America!

Saturday, October 14, 2023, an annular ("ring of fire") eclipse will be experienced in the US from Oregon to Texas;  all of North America will have at least a partial solar eclipse.

Monday, April 8, 2024, a total solar eclipse will be seen in the US from Texas to Maine in the process; all of North America will have at least a partial solar eclipse.


October 14, 2023 annular solar eclipse

 


Viewing the eclipse shadow using a colander
Viewing the solar eclipse
shadow using a colander

April 8, 2024 total solar eclipse

  • Where Can You See It?
    You can see a partial eclipse, where the Moon covers only a part of the sun, anywhere in North America (see "Who can see it?"). To see a total eclipse, where the moon fully covers the sun for a short few minutes, you must be in the path of totality. In 2024 the path of totality is a relatively thin ribbon, around 70 miles wide, that will cross the U.S. from Southwest to Northeast.  States on the path of totality include: Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.

Learners use a model Earth and Moon to mimic an eclipse in a grassy field

Hands-on Activities During Your Event

Two young learners using the DIY Sun Science app
  • DIY Sun Science App
    DIY Sun Science includes 15 easy-to-use hands-on activities to learn about the Sun and its important relationship with Earth. Learn how to cook in a solar oven, measure the size of the Sun, or explore shadows in model Moon craters! Each activity includes step-by-step instructions that have been tested by educators, kids, and families. Activity materials are easily available and inexpensive. PDF versions of hands-on activities are also available for download in both English and Spanish.
  • More activities from NSTA  Solar Science: Exploring Sunspots, Seasons, Eclipses, and More book by Dennis Schatz and Andrew Fraknoi
  • More NASA activities from https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/activities

Finding STEM Experts

We encourage you to seek out local experts for your public events.  Many astronomy enthusiasts plan to travel to the path of totality, but many will be staying closer to home, so please check out all of these different resources to find experts near you:  


OMSI solar eclipse event

Safety

You never want to look directly at the sun without appropriate protection.  That could severely hurt your eyes.  However, there are numerous safe ways to view an eclipse.  

An eclipse is a rare and striking phenomenon you won't want to miss, but you must carefully follow safety procedures. It is vital that you protect your eyes at all times. The only safe way to look directly at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed Sun is through special-purpose solar filters, such as eclipse glasses or handheld solar viewers. Homemade filters or ordinary sunglasses, even very dark ones, are NOT safe for looking at the Sun. 

Safe Viewing Techniques

Affordable Eclipse Glasses 

 To date, only three manufacturers have certified that their eclipse glasses and hand-held solar viewers meet the standards for such products.

Advice from NASA & Museum Informal Education Alliance

Information about free solar viewers and considerations for purchasing glasses

Sources for eclipse glasses

  1. Rainbow Symphony 
  2. American Paper Optics
  3. Thousand Oaks Optical
  4. EclipseGlasses.com (educator discount)

Live Streaming of the Solar Eclipse 

The Exploratorium will be live streaming the solar eclipses in 2023 and 2024 in multiple formats including on mobile devices, including:


Planning and Preparing for Your Solar Eclipse Event 


Citizen Science Projects

 
information below is archived from the 2017 total solar eclipse

The 2017 solar eclipse presents many opportunities for amateur astronomers and lifelong learners to get in on the fun of doing science.  This includes research projects about the sun, the moon, other sun-planet-moon systems, and even eclipses in other stellar systems. 


 

Multimedia - Animations and Visualizations