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Total solar eclipse 2024 highlights: Rare phenomenon darkens North America’s skies

Path of totality spans parts of Mexico, eastern Canada and 13 US states, as experts give information about how to safely see it and take pictures

I traveled 300 miles to see the total solar eclipse

A total eclipse of the Sun plunged a stretch of North America into darkness on Monday, with millions of spectators across the US, Mexico and Canada hoping to catch a glimpse of the rare event.

It was North America’s biggest eclipse crowd ever, with the path of totality crossing directly over 44 million people.

More were drawn in from across the world thanks to the lure of clear skies and up to four and a half minutes of midday darkness in some places.

Almost everyone in North America was guaranteed at least a partial eclipse, weather permitting.

The best weather was seen in Mexico and at the tail end of the eclipse in Vermont and Maine, as well as New Brunswick and Newfoundland.

“Cloud cover is one of the trickier things to forecast,” National Weather Service meteorologist Alexa Maines explained at Cleveland’s Great Lakes Science Centre on Sunday. “At the very least, it won’t snow.”


Hello and welcome

... to The Independent’s live coverage of the 2024 ‘Great North American Eclipse’.

Andrew Griffin8 April 2024 09:25

‘Eclipse Express’ delayed

Overrunning engineering work led to a 70-minute delay in Sunday evening’s “Eclipse Express”: British Airways flight 95 from London Heathrow to Montreal. It was the final departure from the UK that would enable eclipse chasers to reach the only big city on the path of totality in time for the 3.27pm (local time) appointment with the cosmos. Like earlier flights from London to Montreal on Air Transat and Air Canada, the BA Boeing 787 was completely full. A significant number of eclipse hunters booked for the Canadian city at the last minute when it became clear much of the US would be blanketed by cloud.

Of all the BA destinations in North America, the Canadian city is the only one within the zone of totality for today’s astronomical event.

The inflight manager joked to anxious passengers: “The captain tells me he will fly it like he’s stolen it to try to make up time.”

One member of British Airways cabin crew, whose birthday is today, requested to work on the Montreal flight in the hope she would be able to witness the eclipse.

Simon Calder8 April 2024 09:40

‘It's just bigger than all of us’ – eclipse chaser explains the appeal

Some eclipse chasers waited until almost the last minute before choosing their destination. Mike, a software developer from Dresden in Germany, booked a short-notice flight from Berlin via London Heathrow to Montreal.

He had actually booked to travel to the US for the eclipse months ago, but was unable to depart as scheduled because of illness.

“After recovery I decided to still go there,” he told The Independent. “But by then it was so late that I decided to wait even longer until the weather forecast was very clear. That’s why I booked my flights on Friday.

“I didn’t get any accommodation. I did manage to rent a car and so all options are on the table. I’ve a sleeping bag with me and that’s pretty much all I need.”

Mike had originally planned to be in the Midwest, and considered Texas when making his second booking. “Texas generally often has clear skies, but right now it doesn’t,” he said. “So I decided to go to Montréal because it has the best forecast.”

The German traveller explained the appeal of the eclipse: “It is the fact that we cannot influence it, it’s just bigger than all of us. So many things that I do marvel at are man-made. So many problems are man-made. But this is not and this is what I want to see.

“My colleagues don’t really understand, but they are sympathetic with me and just smile about it” He said his aim during the eclipse is to commune with the cosmos. “I would very much prefer to be on my own, but if 1,000 other people are there it’s still better than nothing.”

Simon Calder8 April 2024 09:41

What’s so good about seeing an eclipse?

Simon Calder, Travel Correspondent of The Independent, has viewed total solar eclipses in India and Wyoming USA, as well as the 1999 European event which was obscured by cloud in his chosen location, Dieppe in France.

“In the days leading up to the eclipse, locations in the path of totality acquire a carnival atmosphere as astronomical tourists converge in excited anticipation.

“On the day, the cosmological performance begins with a warm-up lasting more than an hour, during which the moon steadily nibbles away at the surface of the sun.

Suddenly, you experience totality. The stars and planets appear in the middle of the day. The air chills.

“To testify to the heavenly fit between our two most familiar heavenly bodies, faint diamonds known as Baily’s beads peek out from behind the moon. They actually comprise light from the sun slipping through lunar valleys.”

“A sight to behold – so long as you can see the moon blotting out the sun and appreciate the mathematical perfection of nature in our corner of the galaxy.”

Andrew Griffin8 April 2024 09:42

Will I be able to see a partial eclipse from the UK?

Yes. The eclipse ends with the sunset in the eastern Atlantic, about 600 miles off the coast of Cornwall, before it reaches the UK and Ireland. But on the island of Ireland and western parts of Great Britain, a partial eclipse may be visible with the sun low in the sky.

If skies are clear and you have an open view to the west, it will start at around 7.55pm in Cardiff, Liverpool, Manchester, Edinburgh and Glasgow.

BBC Weather presenter Simon King said: “With the partial solar eclipse occurring late in the day UK time, the Sun will be low to the horizon and will actually set before the spectacle is over.”

Simon Calder8 April 2024 09:42

Hotel rates soar as millions seek to experience the eclipse

Accommodation rates have more than trebled in some locations within the “zone of totality”. Data provided to The Independent by the hotel industry analyst Lighthouse shows sharp rises for the night of 7-8 April. In Little Rock, Arkansas, room prices for 7 April were 223 per cent higher than on the same day last year, with the average rate rising from $116 to $374.

Rates in San Antonio in Texas and Indianapolis were over 150 per cent higher, while those in Austin, Dallas and Cleveland, Ohio, have more than doubled.

In Montreal, though, hotel rates are actually 6 per cent down on a year ago, as the city was never considered a serious contender by eclipse chasers.

Simon Calder8 April 2024 09:43

Transatlantic airline passengers might get glimpse of eclipse

Some lucky passengers on scheduled flights from the UK to the US and Canada may get a glimpse of the eclipse as they fly through the zone of totality.

Passengers on middle-of-the-day departures to Boston, New York and Toronto have some chance of flying beneath the eclipse, though it will be only for a matter of seconds: the closing speed of westbound jet aircraft and the eastbound eclipse will be around 2,000mph.

But because so much can change with wind conditions and timings, no airlines are publicising “eclipse-chasing” flights.

Andrew Griffin8 April 2024 09:43

Trump posts bizarre solar eclipse ad – with his head blocking out the sun, plunging US into darkness

It really has to be seen to be believed. After staring straight into the eclipse last time, Donald Trump has posted a new ad in which he himself is blocking out the Sun.

Trump posts bizarre solar eclipse ad – with his head plunging US into darkness

During the August 2017 total solar eclipse, the then-president went viral when he ignored all eclipse safety recommendations by gazing directly at the sun with his naked eyes

Andrew Griffin8 April 2024 09:46

What time is the solar eclipse?

The eclipse will move from the centre of the US up to the north east corner. So the timing will be a little different – not only because the path of totality moves across the country, but also because of timezones.

Here you can find information from Nasa about the timing.

Solar Eclipse 2024: Nasa map shows path of totality

Mexico’s Pacific coast will likely be first to experience total solar eclipse

Andrew Griffin8 April 2024 09:52

Everything you need to know about the eclipse

The eclipse is an opportunity to share in the “wonder of the universe without going very far”, Nasa has said. (Though plenty of people, as below, are travelling for it.)

Here’s some information about what form exactly that wonder will take.

Everything you need to know about the coming solar eclipse

A long totality combined with a populated route means event could be relatively easy to see

Andrew Griffin8 April 2024 09:54

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