Grab Calendar December 2024

A total solar eclipse is coming. Two CT experts share what to know for ‘breathtaking experiences.’

The date has been circled on the calendar for months for astronomy lovers as the total solar eclipse will appear in the afternoon on April 8.

Printable December  Calendar
Printable December Calendar

It’s a rare cosmic event. so even the more occasional sky watchers among us are intrigued. The next major eclipse for the U.S won’t be for 20 years.

Kristine Larsen, a Central Connecticut State University geological sciences professor, and Yale faculty director for the Leitner Family Observatory and Planetarium Dr. Michael Faison both say that Connecticut is not on the path of totality, but that path — where the sun will be completely blocked — is not too far away. A few hours drive away to New Hampshire, Vermont and north and western New York would do the trick for the total experience.

Printable December  Calendar
Printable December Calendar

But for those of sticking to the Nutmeg State for this occasion, Larsen said New Britain will have 93% coverage in the rare cosmic event and Faison said New Haven will have 91% coverage.

For those who have not heard it’s coming, a total solar eclipse happens when the moon passes between the sun and Earth, completely blocking the sun from view and casting a shadow onto Earth. For those viewing the eclipse from locations where the moon’s shadow completely blocks the sun, known as the path of totality, the sky will become dark.

Sadiq Asyraf/AFP via Getty Images

During a solar eclipse, the moon moves between Earth and the sun, blocking the sun’s light and casting a shadow on Earth. There are three sorts of solar eclipses: total, partial and annular. During an annular solar eclipse, the moon is farthest from Earth and appears smaller in size. On these days, the moon cannot block the entire sun, allowing for a thin and bright “ring of fire” to shine from behind the smaller lunar disk. 2020’s annular eclipse will be most visible in parts of Africa and Asia, including in some of the year’s most popular travel destinations.

Patrick Raycraft / Hartford Courant

HARTFORD, CT – 07.21.2017 – SOLAR ECLIPSE – “It’s awesome,” says Sam Cohen, 10, of Simsbury, about viewing the partial (sixty-six percent) eclipse on Monday afternoon at the Connecticut Science Center in Hartford. Sam’s grandmother says they arrived to the science center at 10:30am on Monday to secure the special viewing galsses for the event. It’s the first total solar eclipse in the continental U.S. in thirty-eight years. Sam will be a fourth-grader at Central School in Simsbury this fall. PATRICK RAYCRAFT | [email protected]

Patrick Raycraft / Hartford Courant

HARTFORD, CT – 07.21.2017 – SOLAR ECLIPSE – “We’ve never seen it before,” says Marie Vu, of Manchester, about viewing a partial solar eclipse which she was able to view with special glasses from the pedestrian bridge at the Connecticut Science Center on Monday afternoon. It’s the first total solar eclipse in the continental U.S. in thirty-eight years. More that 3,000 people gatherered at the science center on Monday afternoon. PATRICK RAYCRAFT | [email protected]

Patrick Raycraft / Hartford Courant

HARTFORD, CT – 07.21.2017 – SOLAR ECLIPSE – “Sharing is caring,” says Kate Saulsbery, 28, at right, of South Windsor, a STEM educator about sharing special glasses to view the partial eclipse in Hartford on Monday afternoon at the Connecticut Science Center. Sharing the “A Total Eclipse Celebration” with Saulsbery is Adriana Tavarez, 35, of Stamford, at left. “It’s gorgeous,” says Tavarez who met Saulsbery at the event. Saulsbery is an employee at the Connecticut Science Center. It’s the first total solar eclipse in the continental U.S. in thirty-eight years. PATRICK RAYCRAFT | [email protected]

Zbigniew Bzdak / Chicago Tribune

The total solar eclipse from the campus of Southern Illinois University in Carbondale on Aug. 21, 2017.

Patrick Raycraft / Hartford Courant

At the Connecticut Science Center, Alexandria Joshi-Staples, 6, at center, gets some help from her sister Acadia, 9, at right, in looking at the sun through a Coronado Solarmax telescope during “A Total Eclipse Celebration” on Monday. In addition to providing special glasses and telescopes to view the partial eclipse visible to Connecticut, the Connecticut Science Center is also hosting various activities for kids and families. It’s the first total solar eclipse in the continental U.S. in thirty-eight years. At left is Nicolas Villagra, a STEM educator at the Connecticut Science Center, and in background center is the girls’ father, Paraq Joshi. The family is from Manchester.

Patrick Raycraft / Hartford Courant

HARTFORD, CT – 07.21.2017 – SOLAR ECLIPSE – “It’s amazing,” says Chelsea Barrett, 11, of West Hartford, as she view a partial eclipse on Monday afternoon at the Connecticut Science Center in Hartford. More than 3000 people gathered at the Connecticut Science Center to get a glimpse of the partial eclipse (66 percent). It was the first total solar eclipse in the continental U.S. in thirty-eight years. PATRICK RAYCRAFT | [email protected]

Patrick Raycraft / Hartford Courant

At the Connecticut Science Center, Paraq Joshi, of Manchester, looks directly at the sun as he tests his special viewing glasses at “A Total Eclipse Celebration” on Monday at the Connecticut Science Center. Joshi hopes to view Connecticut’s partial eclipse (about 66 percent) with his young daughters. It’s the first total solar eclipse in the continental U.S. in thirty-eight years.

Cloe Poisson / Hartford Courant

HADDAM 08/21/17 Susan Goodall, of Lyme, uses binoculars rigged with special filters to view the partial solar eclipse while on an eclipse viewing cruise aboard the Riverquest. Goodall and her husband, Foster Tennant, have traveled around the world to see total solar eclipses in Norway, Africa, Indonesia and Shanghai. The cruise, run by Connecticut River Expeditions out of Haddam, took about two dozen people on the two-hour cruise up the river. CLOEPOISSON|[email protected]

Paul Sancya/AP

Millions of Americans gazed in wonder through telescopes, cameras and disposable protective glasses Monday in the first total solar eclipse to sweep the U.S. from coast to coast in nearly a century.

According to NASA, the eclipse will cross North America, passing over Mexico, the United States and Canada. The peak of the eclipse will last a maximum of four minutes and 28 seconds, but it will be shorter in most spots.

Where will you be for the April 8 total solar eclipse? There’s still time to grab a spot

The path of the eclipse from Mexico enters the United States in Texas, and travels through Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. Small parts of Tennessee and Michigan will also experience the total solar eclipse. About 32 million people will be in the path of totality.

Safety and science

Three New England cities are in the direct path of the eclipse: Burlington, Vermont, Lancaster, New Hampshire, and Caribou, Maine. Those areas will see it from 2:14 p.m. until the full eclipse at 4:40 p.m. The peak is around 3:30 p.m. Those times are similar to what will be seen in Connecticut.

“I’ve been telling everyone I know to get yourself to the path of totality. It’s so close,” Larsen said. “Ninety-three percent sounds like a lot but there is a huge difference between 93 and 100. With 100 percent you get to see the outer atmosphere of the sun (called the corona) and see the glory of the sun. I don’t care if its 99 percent — you aren’t going to get the same experience as the path of totality.”

A total solar eclipse will be visible to millions of Americans in April. Here’s how to view it

According to The National Solar Observatory, the corona is the area of plasma, or highly ionized gas, that extends thousands of miles above the sun’s visible surface, called the photosphere. Because the sun’s light is so powerful, the corona is extremely hard to see from Earth except with special equipment or during a total solar eclipse, according to the observatory.

During totality, when the moon blocks all of the sun’s light, the corona “appears as a white gossamer curtain emanating from the sun,” according to the observatory.

Larsen said to fight the urge and not look directly at the eclipse. Viewing glasses are always necessary.

“Use eye protection and you can order eclipse viewing glasses and follow safety directions,” Larsen said. “When the sun is so deeply eclipsed it doesn’t seem as dangerous, but it is. Don’t be tempted.”

“It’s important to use ISO rated glasses,” Faison said. “You can’t look at it for more than a fraction of a second without damaging your eyes. A partial eclipse can look less bright, but it can burn a pattern of a little crescent in your retina. Don’t do that. Do what your mom and teachers told you to never look at the sun.”

A long wait for the next one

The last total solar eclipse in the U.S. was in August 2017. That was the first total solar eclipse visible in the lower 48 states in 38 years. According to NASA, the next total solar eclipse that will be visible from the contiguous United States will be on Aug. 23, 2044.

US President Donald Trump looks up at the partial solar eclipse from the balcony of the White House in Washington, DC, on Aug. 21, 2017. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images/TNS)

“Get to the path of totality,” Larsen said. “It’s the best way to see it. It’s only a quick road trip. At this point a lot of hotels are sold out and the ones that aren’t are charging a pretty penny at this point. Traffic is going to be hideous but try to take the drive where the totality is. There’s nothing like it. If you have a friend or family member that lives in one of those areas it might be a good idea to stop for a visit.”

Larsen is flying with a group of 30 astronomy enthusiasts, both professional and amateur, to Austin, Texas.

“It will be visible for about a minute longer in Texas than many other places. We are going to stay in the middle of nowhere,” Larsen said. “In case, we have a cloudy day we have vans to drive as far as we need to go to see it.”

This is Larsen’s sixth total solar eclipse.

“The other five were amazing, breathtaking experiences and I can’t wait to have another one,” Larsen said.

The moon transits the sun during the 2017 total solar eclipse as seen from Weiser, Idaho. (Kyle Green/Idaho Statesman/TNS)

Clouds would block the view of the eclipse.

Larsen said her plan was to watch the 2017 eclipse at a Missouri winery. Because of a bad forecast, the group she was with was bused east to Marion, Illinois.

“We got up at 4 a.m. and bused east,” she said. “The key is being mobile and watch the weather and make a decision and drive if you can.”

Larsen has also seen total solar eclipses in Australia, Egypt, China and the Faroe Islands.

The Australian eclipse was on a cloudy day and was only seen for a few seconds in between clouds, she said. The longest eclipse Larsen has experienced was in China; it lasted for for six and a half minutes. The totality is fleeting but it “is really amazing to experience,” Larsen said.

The deep partial eclipse like the one that will be seen in Connecticut will have an artificial hue.

“It’s almost like when you watch a movie and a director uses a weird blue color,” Larsen said. “People will notice a change in lighting. It’s not going to get dark in Connecticut. In the path of totality, it gets dark, and the animals and birds think it’s time to go to bed. The wind changes. It’s unlike any other experience you can have.”

This is Faison fourth’s total solar eclipse. He watched one in Africa in 2001, China in 2009 and Idaho in 2017.

He’s heading to Ohio for next month’s event.

“Everyone should get to totality,” Faison said. “Seeing a total eclipse is a much different experience than a partial and it’s an eerie feeling. The stars come out and it gets cooler, and you can see the corona of the sun. Everyone is going to be heading to totality areas and the roads are going to be jammed.”

“Everyone should try to see a total solar eclipse in their lifetime,” he added. “If you can get to New York or Vermont to see the totality I recommend it.”

Connecticut will not a have a total solar eclipse until Sept. 14, 2099.

Larsen suggested visiting for more information on how to view the eclipse and where to get viewing glasses.