Total solar eclipse April 8, 2024

One April 8th, 2024, people along a path from Mexico to Newfoundland will experience a total solar eclipse. Ithaca is located just south of the path of totality so we will see a partial eclipse. From Ithaca the moon will cover 99% of the sun.

"You owe it to yourself to experience a total solar eclipse!"

David Baron, author, journalist, broadcaster

What is a total solar eclipse?

Solar eclipse near totality: a dark circle surrounded by a white halo.

NASA image of a solar eclipse near totality. In the lower left part of the sun is still visible.

A solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes directly between Earth and the more distant sun. The sun and moon have roughly the same apparent size, so the moon covers the sun for a period of several minutes during a total solar eclipse. Total solar eclipses occur about once every 18 months, but since the moon's shadow is much smaller than Earth total solar eclipses are quite rare for any given location: about once every 400 years! Ithaca is just south of the path of totality (where viewers will see the moon completely cover the sun) so we will see a partial solar eclipse, but it's less than a 30-minute drive north to the path of totality.

Timing of the April 8 eclipse for Ithaca, NY

The eclipse timing depends on your location relative to the path of the moon's shadow. For our location in Ithaca, NY:

  • "First contact," when the moon begins to cover the sun: 2:07 pm EDT
  • Partial eclipse maximum: 3:23 pm EDT
  • "Fourth contact," when the moon no longer covers the sun: 4:34 pm EDT

Not planning to view the eclipse from Ithaca? Find the exact eclipse timing for your location by clicking on this map provided by the National Solar Observatory.

How can I safely view a solar eclipse?

A family wearing dark solar glasses looking up towards the sun.

A family observing the August, 2017, solar eclipse wearing certified solar viewing glasses. (NASA)

Looking directly at the sun for a fraction of a second can permanently damage your vision. During a partial solar eclipse, when the sun is partly obscured as it will be in Ithaca, that small amount of sunlight can still damage your eyes. Since the eclipse process will last for about two hours, even short glances at the sun can add up to damaged vision. Fortunately it is easy and inexpensive to safely observe the sun:

  • Get a pair of solar viewing glasses. Many local merchants are selling them for just a few dollars and there are also organizations giving them away for free. Just be sure that the glasses are certified for solar viewing. Certified glasses will have "ISO 12312-2" printed on them. Here's a list of safe glasses compiled by the American Astronomical Society. Regular sunglasses and even most welding glasses are not safe for solar viewing. Although they reduce the brightness of sunlight, they do not filter out the harmful UV and infrared from the sun.
  • Wear solar glasses in front of (above) prescription glasses.
  • Filter on Top! If you plan to take photographs of the eclipse with a phone or other camera, remember the rule "Filter on Top!" Put a solar filter (one side of a pair of solar glasses, for example) so that it completely covers your phone camera lens and only filtered light enters the camera. Remember not to look directly at the sun without protection even if you are taking photos.
  • Project the sun on a flat surface using a pinhole. You can even use a kitchen colander! Anything with one or more small round holes held in the sunlight will project an image of the sun on the ground.
  • Go to an event organized by your local science museum, nature center, or school where they will have solar glasses and other safe viewing setups.
  • The eclipse will take a total of two hours from start to finish so protect the rest of your body by wearing a hat and sunblock with a high SPF value even if it is partly cloudy and cold!