ROCHESTER, NY (WROC) – Mark your calendars, because in 3 years on April, 8th, 2024 a total solar eclipse will carve a path directly over Western New York. This event will end up drawing quite the crowd to the area and darken our afternoon skies for a total of about 3 minutes and 39 seconds. It will surely be a rare and spectacular sight, but what exactly is a solar eclipse?
What is a total solar eclipse?
A solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the sun and the earth, blocking out some of the sun’s light from reaching earth over a specific area. A total solar eclipse is when the moon passes directly in front of the sun and completely blocks out the light from the sun.
Think of these three celestial bodies in a row. There’s the earth that revolves around the sun, and the moon that revolves around the earth. At different points of the year the paths of the moon and the sun cross just right where the moon passes directly in between the sun and the earth, blocking out the sun’s rays over a small portion of earth.
Those that do see the total eclipse are within the moon’s shadow being casted onto the earth. This shadow is known as the “umbra.” Those that don’t fall within the “path of totality” will still witness a partial solar eclipse as the “penumbra” or partial shadow passes over earth.
Even though the moon is much smaller than the sun, our perspective on earth combined with the moon’s distance away from us allows the sun and moon to have the same apparent size in earth’s sky. The sun is about 400 times bigger than the moon, but the moon is about 400 times closer than the sun is to earth. Since the moon is as close to us as the sun is bigger than us, the moon “appears” to completely cover up the sun’s light during an eclipse.
In order to look at a solar eclipse, you have to wear protective solar eclipse glasses to protect your eyes from the sun’s UV rays that can cause blindness or permanent vision loss. When the event gets closer, be on the lookout for these special glasses to become freely available around your local area.
A very important factor in being able to see this incredible event is the weather forecast. Is it impossible to say what the weather will be like 3 years from now? Absolutely. However, we can get an idea based on climatology of the chances that cloud cover could interrupt the big event.
More likely than not our region sees at least 50-60% cloud coverage during the month of April, but only time will tell what our skies will hold on that exciting day 3 years from now.
Will you be watching?
~Meteorologist Christine Gregory