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The proverbial stars will align on April 8, 2024, and Fort Worth will be in the direct path of a total solar eclipse, with the maximum occurring just after 1:40 p.m. TCU News spoke with physics and astronomy instructor Richard Bonde about what we can expect.  

Can you tell us about the eclipse we will see on April 8 and what bondethe viewing will be like in Fort Worth? 
The eclipse on April 8, 2024, will be a solar eclipse. This is where the moon will block light from the sun. In Fort Worth, we will see a total solar eclipse, where the sun will be completely blocked by the moon. Fort Worth is along the path of totality, where the total solar eclipse will happen. Those locations outside the path of totality will see a partial solar eclipse. Just a note if you need a picture of the path of totality, this website offers a helpful visual.    

What is different about this eclipse from ones we have experienced recently? 
There was an annular solar eclipse on Oct. 14, 2023, but Fort Worth was only in a path for us to see a partial solar eclipse. The difference between that eclipse and the one on April 8 will be strikingly different since the sun will be completely covered by the moon. Going further back, there was a total solar eclipse in 2017, which was seen as a partial solar eclipse in Fort Worth. There are a couple of differences for those who saw totality in 2017. First is the length of totality. While the 2017 solar eclipse was about two and half minutes long, the April 2024 eclipse will be close to four minutes long. Another difference will be in terms of solar activity. The sun goes through about an 11-year period of increased solar (magnetic) activity. The 2017 solar eclipse happened during a quiet time (solar minimum). The current solar cycle is expected to peak in mid-to-late 2024, which means the April 8 solar eclipse will be just before or during solar maximum. There is a higher chance to see solar activity, such as a solar prominence. 

Sometimes eclipses can make interesting shadows and other phenomena. Why does that occur, and can we expect to see that with this eclipse? 
A small aperture can act as a lens, focusing the light rays (pinhole effect). You can make a pinhole camera using a cardboard box. The light that passes through the pinhole will show the eclipsed sun during the partial eclipse phase (about an hour before and after totality). Also, during this time, look at the shadows of tree leaves on the ground. They make a similar effect to the pinhole camera, showing the shape of the eclipsed sun. During totality, stars, planets and even comets could be visible. On April 8, Jupiter and Venus will both be visible during totality. A comet (12P/Pons-Brooks) will be passing near the sun on April 8 and may also be visible during totality. During this time, the sky will get dark and the temperature will drop.  

Can you give us the lowdown on viewing? We know TCU is hosting viewing stations for faculty, staff and students. What are other good viewing points? 
Totality is expected to start at 1:40 p.m. CDT. The sun will be high in the sky, which makes viewing the eclipse relatively easy. The TCU viewing points will work well; the most important thing to remember is to find an open area. There have been many observations of animals acting weird during a total solar eclipse, so a fascinating location to view it would be at a zoo. 

qaWe know safety is important. What can you tell us about safe viewing? 
First would be eclipse glasses. TCU will be providing eclipse glasses at their viewing stations. For those not on campus, make arrangements to get glasses as soon as possible. Except for the roughly four minutes of totality, the eclipse glasses need to be on any time you look at the sun. It is perfectly safe to look at the sun during totality. The sky will get dark, and you will no longer be able to see the sun through your eclipse glasses. That’s the moment you can take them off. For those not on campus, try to avoid pulling over on major streets and highways during totality. Not only will traffic be a mess, but there can be a chance for accidents if everyone starts pulling over all at once. Find a park or somewhere similar and get there early enough to be settled once totality starts. Certainly, do not view the eclipse while driving! 

Anything else we should know? 
Be prepared for lots of traffic and congestion, especially within the hour or so before and after totality. Freeways especially are going to be congested. Get where you’re going early, and, if you can, stay put for a few hours after the eclipse. This is going to be an incomparable event in your lifetime – do not miss it! 

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