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Solar Eclipses

Hero image showing the 2017 total solar eclipse
The upcoming Great North American Eclipse will stretch across much of the continental US on April 8, 2024. 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. 

Upcoming eclipses viewable in North America

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. 
  • How Can You See It?
    You never want to look directly at the sun without appropriate protection except during totality.  That could severely hurt your eyes.  However, there are numerous safe ways to view an eclipse.  Click here for eclipse viewing techniques and safety. 

Exploring the Solar System: Solar Eclipse activity two children with inflatable balls

Hands-on Activities During Your Event

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

Affordable Eclipse Glasses 

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

Sources for eclipse glasses

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

If you don't have glasses there are other ways to see the eclipse safely:

Multimedia - Animations and Visualizations

Planning and Preparing for Your Solar Eclipse Event - information below is archived from the 2017 total solar eclipse

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:

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. 


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