NASA expert breaks down what North Carolinians need to know ahead of the 2024 solar eclipse

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) – The United States last saw a total solar eclipse on August 21st, 2017 and now the U.S. is just shy of seeing another, next Monday, April 8th.

According to NASA, a total solar eclipse happens when the moon passes between the sun and Earth, completely blocking the face of the sun.

April 8th’s total solar eclipse will begin over the South Pacific Ocean and will cross North America, passing over Mexico, the United States, and Canada.

NASA says the area on the ground, covered by totality is only about 50 miles wide.

Though North Carolina will not be in the path of totality for this 2024 eclipse, some NC residents may be able to see a partial eclipse, NASA says.

“Solar eclipses occur once every two years somewhere in the world but the world is pretty big and there’s a lot of oceans in the world so the chances of it crossing the United States are fairly small. We’re lucky that this is happening twice in only a handful of years. The next one won’t happen until the 2040s so anytime you can see a partial or full eclipse is a great experience to see what the sun has to offer,” NASA Research Scientist, Dr. Ashley Greeley told WITN.

Whether viewing a partial or whole solar eclipse, Greeley says safety should always be a priority. “You guys are only having a partial eclipse with the suns light. It’ll look like a crescent or cookie with a bite taken out of it. During all partial solar eclipses, it’s still important to wear solar eclipse proper glasses when looking at the sun directly. Weather permitting, I think you’ll still be able to see that nice crescent shape that I still think will be very interesting to look at.”

Greeley says there are also indirect ways of viewing the eclipse such as a pinhole projector. For more information on how to make one yourself, visit NASA’s website.

NASA says the sky will darken as if it were dawn or dusk. Weather permitting, people along the path of totality will see the sun’s corona, or outer atmosphere, which is usually obscured by the bright face of the sun.

The 2024 solar eclipse will last longer than the one viewed by more than 20 million people in August 2017, and according to NASA won’t happen again for another 20 years. 

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