April 8 Total Solar Eclipse

On April 8, 2024, a total solar eclipse will travel across North America, with the Moon surrounded by the Sun’s delicate corona. Texas will be a great spot to experience it – the state is in the "path of totality" and typically enjoys clear, cloud-free weather.

McDonald Observatory is not in the path of totality. However, we will be able to see a partial solar eclipse. 

Jump to a section of this page:

What Is a Solar Eclipse?

How to View a Solar Eclipse Safely

Where and When to View the Eclipse

Experience the Eclipse with Us

Training Sessions: How to Host an Eclipse Viewing Event

Additional Resources

Connect with an Eclipse Expert

What Is a Solar Eclipse?

When the Moon orbits Earth, it sometimes moves between the Sun and Earth. When it does, the Moon casts a shadow on Earth that either fully or partially blocks the Sun’s light in some areas. This is a solar eclipse.

We are able to experience solar eclipses because of an incredible astronomical coincidence: the apparent sizes of our Sun and Moon are both the same when seen from Earth. This is because, although the Sun is roughly 400 times larger in diameter than the Moon, the Moon is also 400 times closer to us than the Sun.

There are four types of solar eclipses:

  1. Total solar eclipse: The Moon passes between the Earth and Sun, completely covering the Sun’s disk along a narrow path. You must be within the narrow path of the Moon’s shadow to experience a total solar eclipse.
  2. Annular solar eclipse: The Moon’s distance from Earth varies by roughly 31,000 miles (50,000 km). If an eclipse occurs when the Moon is farther away than average, the Moon isn’t quite wide enough to completely cover the Sun. That leaves a “ring of fire” around the Moon.
  3. Hybrid solar eclipse: On rare occasions, the beginning and end of a solar eclipse can be annular, with a total eclipse sandwiched between.
  4. Partial solar eclipse: When the Moon blocks only a part of the Sun it creates a partial eclipse. All solar eclipses include partial phases, while some eclipses offer only partial coverage, with the Moon-Sun alignment not quite precise enough for a total or annular period.

How to View a Solar Eclipse Safely

The only time it is safe to look at the sun with your naked eye is during the brief total phase (totality) of a total solar eclipse, such as the one that will occur on April 8, 2024. During a partial or annular solar eclipse, such as the one that occured on October 14, 2023, there is no time when it is safe to look directly at the Sun without using adequate protection.

Adequate protection includes:

  • Eclipse glasses and viewers: Make sure they meet an international standard of eye protection (ISO 12312-2), are certified, and are free of scratches or other flaws.
  • Welder’s glass: No. 13 or 14 welder’s glass provide both protection and visibility.

Visit the American Astronomical Society’s website to learn about eclipse eye safety.

Where and When to View the Eclipses

This interactive map let you look up when the solar eclipse will be visible (if at all) from any given location:

Another resource for looking up the eclipse path is the Totality app (free).

When choosing a viewing location, consider:

  • Weather: Check if the location historically has clear, cloud-free skies on the date of the eclipse. The night before, check the forecast and have an alternate viewing site in mind if yours will be clouded out.
  • Lodging: Hotels along the eclipse path (especially the total eclipse in April) will fill up quickly. Book yours well in advance.
  • Traffic: Traffic will be heavy (especially for the total eclipse in April), so plan your route in advance and allow plenty of time to reach your viewing site.

Experience the Eclipse with Us

McDonald Observatory and UT Austin representatives will be onsite for eclipse events in:

  • Austin, The University of Texas at Austin (1 min 48 sec of totality): UT is planning a viewing experience for the University community. Stations located across campus will distribute viewing glasses and share eclipse information. More details coming soon to eclipse.utexas.edu.
  • Austin, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center (2 min of totality): The Wildflower Center will have educational demonstrations that explore plants’ interactions with the Sun and eclipses.
  • AustinLong Center for the Performing Arts (1 min 44 sec of totality): The Long Center and Simons Foundation, as part of its In the Path of Totality initiative, are hosting a free eclipse viewing party on the Long Center lawn and H-E-B Terrace. Participants can check out a replica of the McDonald Observatory's Hobby-Eberly Telescope. RSVP required. 
  • Fort Davis, McDonald Observatory (no totality): Although we will only see a partial eclipse, we are preparing for visitors who want to experience it at McDonald Observatory. We will have telescopes set up for solar viewing, educational activities, and demos.

Be sure to check in advance with these and any other event locations for information on entry requirements, parking/transportation, and more. Eclipse viewings are likely to draw a crowd!

Training Sessions: How to Host an Eclipse Viewing Event

McDonald Observatory is providing online training (via Zoom) for K-12 educators, community volunteers, and others who are planning to host their own viewing events. Workshops cover the science of eclipses, how to experience them safely, and tips for hosting an event.

After the workshop, McDonald Observatory will send educational materials to attendees. Some event locations will be selected to receive physical materials including eclipse viewers and StarDate Eclipse Guides.

Upcoming sessions:

  • More coming soon

 

Additional Resources

 

StarDate Radio (produced by McDonald Observatory) will also create a special feature audio program about the eclipse that will be distributed to event partners throughout the state along with Public Service Announcements to help promote and educate a large audience about this special event.

Training sessions and resources are available thanks to generous support from the Abell-Hanger Foundation and Friends of McDonald Observatory

Connect with an Eclipse Expert

  • Eclipse Event Planners: Due to the large number of requests, we are no longer able to provide speakers for eclipse events. To become your own eclipse expert, we encourage event hosts to attend one of our training sessions
    • Note: We are considering creating an eclipse video hosts can play at their events. To request a copy of this video if/when it is complete, contact lara@astro.as.utexas.edu
  • Media and Press: To request an interview with an astronomer for an upcoming news story, contact emily.howard@austin.utexas.edu.
  • Teachers and Educators: To discuss eclipse training sessions, contact teachers@mcdonaldobservatory.org.
  • Visit the Contact page of our website for additional ways to connect with us.