The April 8 Total Solar Eclipse: Through the Eyes of NASA

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The April 8 Total Solar Eclipse: Through the Eyes of NASA

A total solar eclipse is seen in Dallas on April 8, 2024. A total solar eclipse swept across a narrow portion of the North American continent from Mexico’s Pacific coast to the Atlantic coast of Newfoundland, Canada. A partial solar eclipse was visible across the entire North American continent along with parts of Central America and Europe.

Credits:
NASA/Keegan Barber

On April 8, 2024, the Moon’s shadow swept across North America, treating millions to a breathtaking view of a total solar eclipse. As the Moon passed in front of the Sun, it revealed the Sun’s wispy white outer atmosphere — the corona.

A strip of images showing the Sun in different stages of being eclipsed by the Moon.
This composite image of multiple exposures shows the progression of a total solar eclipse in Dallas on April 8, 2024.
NASA/Keegan Barber

Pictures of total solar eclipses are beautiful — they capture a moment happening so far away, yet feels so close at the same time. But being there in person, you experience it in 3D. The eclipse doesn’t just appear in the sky. You feel it all around you. The light slowly dims, then suddenly engulfs you in darkness from every angle, while the Sun’s corona emerges in the sky.

Although you know totality is coming, its arrival can still be overwhelming. For some people, their hearts race or their eyes well up with tears. You try to absorb everything you can in those minutes: from the corona, to the planets peeking out around the eclipse, to the temperature drop, to cheers of excitement from the community around you, even changes in animal behaviors.

Crowds react to the solar eclipse in Dallas; Carbondale, Illinois; and Indianapolis. Credits: Summer Lawrence, Laurie Elliott, and NASA/Rose Brunning

For years, people have reported how animals behave differently during eclipses. Birds may return to their nests, thinking it’s nighttime, or nocturnal animals begin to wake up. A NASA-funded project called Eclipse Soundscapes collected data from participants across the path who recorded the reactions of wildlife before, during, and after this celestial event.

Amy Van Artsdalen attaches a device to capture recordings of animal behavior before, during, and after the total solar eclipse. NASA/Joy Ng

Total solar eclipses are a great reminder that humans are animals — we, too, feel the strangeness that causes other animals to have unusual behaviors. When experiencing the sudden change to darkness, and the sudden restoration of light, it can feel eerie and special. The world returns to normal around you, but those minutes of totality were anything but.

This timelapse video shows the dimming of light during the total solar eclipse on April 8, 2024, in Dallas.
NASA/Rachel Lense

On April 8, millions of people gathered across the path of totality, including at 14 NASA “SunSpot” locations where attendees could speak to NASA experts and engage in educational activities. At many locations, visitors set up blankets, lawn chairs, and picnics as they prepared to watch the Sun turn into a crescent until its bright face completely disappeared.

During totality, viewers could spot planets. In this view from Dallas, Venus and Jupiter were very bright. Their brief appearance in the middle of the day were reminders of Earth’s place in the solar system.

In Dallas, viewers were able to spot Venus and Jupiter during totality.
NASA/Abbey Interrante

Viewers could also see bright pink prominences flowing out from the Sun. Prominences are unstable clouds of plasma suspended above the Sun by strong magnetic forces. The prominences spotted during the eclipse were many times larger than Earth itself. It’s rare to be able to spot prominences from the ground unaided by a telescope, so seeing these prominences with just your eyes was a unique opportunity for those on the ground.

The total solar eclipse. A large black circle against a black background. A faint white glow is seen around the rim of the black circle. On the bottom right, a bright burst of light peeks out. Toward the center of the bottom of the circle, a bright pink, slightly transparent bit of solar matter flows against the black background. A few other spots of bright pink material can be seen on the right area of the circle.
Baily’s Beads and solar prominences are seen just after totality in Dallas on Monday, April 8, 2024.
NASA/Keegan Barber

While we were watching the eclipse from the ground, a NASA spacecraft was watching from above. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) captured this image of the Sun a few minutes before totality in Dallas at 1:37 p.m. CDT (18:37 UTC). From SDO’s position in space, the Sun was completely visible, while for people on Earth, the Sun was blocked by the Moon. The prominences seen in this image were what viewers on the ground were able to see with the naked eye.

NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) captured this image of the Sun on April 8, 2024, a few minutes before totality in Dallas.
NASA/SDO

Astronauts on the International Space Station also had an exclusive view of the eclipse from 261 miles above Earth. Due to their place in space, they could see the Moon’s shadow travel across Earth at around 1,900 miles per hour. While those of us on Earth watched the Moon pass in front of the Sun, astronauts on the International Space Station watched its shadow pass over Earth.

A portion of the Earth seen from above, blue and partially covered with clouds. In one area is a very dark, black and gray circular shadow.
The Moon’s shadow, or umbra, is pictured covering portions of the Canadian provinces of Quebec and New Brunswick and the American state of Maine in this photograph from the International Space Station as it soared into the solar eclipse from 261 miles above.

NASA’s Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC) imager on the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) satellite captured these views of Earth between 12:02 and 4:32 p.m. EDT (16:02 and 20:32 UTC) from about 1 million miles from Earth. DSCOVR is a joint NASA, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and U.S. Air Force satellite.

NASA’s Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC) imager on the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) satellite captured these views of Earth during the total solar eclipse on April 8, 2024.
NASA

Much closer to Earth, pilots aboard NASA’s WB-57 jets flew at 50,000 feet, chasing the Moon’s shadow briefly to extend the time scientific experiments could study the eclipse. This research will help contribute to scientists’ understanding of the Sun’s corona and Earth’s atmosphere.

While flying, a view of the pilot in the cockpit from below her seat. The pilot is wearing a blue suit and a helmet with a tube attached to the front. In front of her are several screens, including one showing the total solar eclipse. The cockpit gets darker and darker as she flies in the eclipse's shadow.
A pilot flying a WB-57 jet during the total solar eclipse on April 8, 2024.
NASA/Mallory Yates

From the ground, in Earth’s atmosphere, and in space, the total solar eclipse was a breathtaking experience for millions of people. The effects of the total solar eclipse on Earth and on us will be remembered by many for years to come.

Above a garden, pergola, pond, and fountain, the stages of the eclipse are seen in the sky. From left to right, the Sun changes from partially covered, to a crescent, to a total solar eclipse, then back to a crescent and partially covered again.
This composite image of multiple exposures shows the progression of a total solar eclipse in Dallas on April 8, 2024.
NASA/Keegan Barber

While the eclipse is a powerful reminder of our place in the universe, it also reminds us of our place in our communities. During the alignment of the Sun, Moon, and Earth, people across North America also aligned with families, friends, classes, colleagues, and even strangers as they took in this celestial event in the sky and all around them.

By Abbey Interrante and Joy Ng
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

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