2024 solar eclipse guide: Timing, path, glasses and everything to know

For everything from timing, to path, to weather and more, here's a guide of what to exect on April 8:

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NBC 5 meteorologist Kevin Jeanes breaks down the five things you need to know about the 2024 solar eclipse

The 2024 solar eclipse will bring an incredible spectacle to skies next week, marking a rare and historic moment in the U.S., but also in Illinois.

And if you miss it, you won't see another one like it for several years.

For everything from timing, to the path, to weather and more, here's a guide of what to exect on April 8:

What time is the solar eclipse?

According to NASA scientists, the eclipse will take place on Monday, April 8 in the afternoon hours across the North American continent, with the area of totality impacting areas in southern Illinois and central Indiana.

During a total solar eclipse, the new moon intersects the path of the sun in the sky, causing the sun to be partially and then nearly completely blocked from view.

In Carbondale, Illinois, the partial eclipse on April 8 will begin at approximately 12:42 p.m. During this time, special glasses will be needed to view the eclipse, though there are other ways of seeing the moon’s impact on the sun’s light reaching the Earth.

At approximately 1:59 p.m., “totality” will begin in Carbondale, and during this time, stargazers will be able to look at the eclipse without any aid whatsoever, with darkened skies and the famed “corona” blazing around the edges of the moon.

This period will not last for very long, as totality is expected to end at approximately 2:03 p.m., according to NASA scientists.

The partial eclipse will continue for another hour, ending at approximately 3:18 p.m.

Here's a city-by-city breakdown for those in the Chicago area and in the path of totality in Illinois.

Where is the "path of totality?"

The eclipse's "path of totality" will start in Southwest Texas and move northeast.

The path of totality includes the southern tip of Illinois, central and southern Indiana and Indianapolis. From there, it will race across Cleveland, Ohio; Buffalo, New York and into Maine.

The below map from the Adler Planetarium shows what the eclipse will look like in Illinois, with Carbondale, Mount Vernon, Metropolis and Mount Carmel among the southern Illinois cities in the path of totality.

What is the forecast and will you be able to see it if it's cloudy?

Recent forecast projections indicate some cloudy conditions could be in store for the rare celestial event, which could still alter what you see in the sky, but much could change in the lead-up to the event.

According to the latest prediction from the National Weather Service, conditions appear to have cleared up for some parts of Illinois and Indiana, despite earlier potential for severe storms, but there's still some uncertainty surrounding cloud cover for parts of northern Illinois and the Chicago area. Still, the NWS urges people to check back and "expect the forecast to change."

According to the NBC 5 Storm Team, there's a good chance early morning clouds will clear Monday, making the partial eclipse visible in Chicago.

"Even 100% clouds, it could be thin clouds and you still may see at least a filtered view of the solar eclipse," NBC 5 Meteorologist Kevin Jeanes said. "So just because you see a lot of clouds on a computer model it doesn't mean you're not going to be able to see anything."

"If you have high thin clouds, it can block the view slightly but will still allow for much of the eclipse to be visible," Meteorologist Alicia Roman said. "If you have low, thick clouds ... it will still look darker for the duration of the eclipse, it just wont be as dramatic as if it were a sunny day and turning completely dark the next second. The skies will just dim or get a little darker."

Jeanes noted the models Thursday showed the average cloud cover around 45% in Chicago and 26% Indianapolis, "which is one of the lower percentages if you look across the path of totality."

"I think the more concerning area for cloud cover is going to be actually farther south across Texas and Arkansas and those are areas," Jeanes said.

When a solar eclipse happens, some clouds tend to disappear.

Scientists at the Royal Netherland Meteorological Institute recently found shallow cumulus clouds dissipate in large number when just 15% of the sun is covered. That’s because the earth’s surface cools when the sunlight is blocked, reducing updrafts of warm air that usuaully emanate. Those updrafts are necessary to form cumulus clouds since they carry water vapor as they rise into cooler altitutdes.

Shallow cumulus clouds tend to disappear early on in a solar eclipse. Scientists think they now know why.

Do you need special glasses to see it?

According to the Adler Planetarium, viewing the solar eclipse without proper eyewear can result in irreversible eye damage within seconds, and as your eyes lack the nerve endings to register pain as it's occurring, it'll be too late by the time you know.

Regular sunglasses, even very dark ones, are not safe to view the eclipse.

With the danger of irreversible eye damage present in the event of viewing the eclipse unprotected, it's critical to ensure that the solar eclipse glasses used are not counterfeit.

But there's no real way to detect real glasses versus counterfeit ones just by looking at them.

"The glasses if they're counterfeit, they may appear fine, because maybe they're dark enough that you can that it appears like you can safely look at the sun. But what you don't know is are they letting through ultraviolet and infrared light. That's the thing that I would worry about the most," Michelle Nichols, director of public observing at the Adler Planetarium said.

Detecting real vs. fake becomes even more challenging when companies tout unproven or inaccurate safety claims.

"Just be careful and don't just assume just because it says safe glasses that that they actually are because anyone can write that," she said.

If you’re still wondering how to tell if your glasses will give you the right protection, here’s a trick, according to experts:

“When you wear the glasses, you should not be able to see anything," Dr. Nina Goyal, an ophthalmologist with Rush University Medical Center told NBC Chicago. "It is a flexible resin with carbon particles infused, the only thing you should be able to see out of these is the orange glow of the sun. Don't use sunglasses, don't layer sunglasses, and don't use smoked glass."

Experts suggest purchasing solar eclipse glasses through suppliers deemed "safe" by the American Astronomical Society.

The society's list offers links to "selected suppliers of solar viewers and filters that you can be confident are safe when used properly."

"These include companies and organizations with which members of the AAS Solar Eclipse Task Force have had good experience as well as other companies and organizations that have demonstrated to our satisfaction that the products they're selling meet the safety requirements of the ISO 12312-2 international standard," the list states.

The society notes, however, that its list is not exhaustive, and glasses not listed on the site could still be safe. They do not recommend using Amazon, eBay, Temu or other online marketplaces to find lowest-priced options.

"Before you buy a solar viewer or filter online, we recommend that you make sure that (1) the seller is identified on the site and (2) the seller is listed on this page," the society states.

Here are the key take-aways for finding legitimate eclipse glasses:

  • When buying eclipse glasses, look for an approved manufacturer on the astronomical society’s website and make sure the glasses have the numbers iso 1-2-3-1-2- 2 printed on the inside.
  • You can find the list of Suppliers of Safe Solar Viewers & Filters here.
  • If you still have your glasses from the 2017 eclipse, you might be able to reuse them. But that's only if they aren’t bent, torn, or scratched.

Some museums and stores in the Chicago area are also offering free solar eclipse glasses and viewers while supplies last.

  • Solar filters: If you want to use a telescope, binoculars or camera, do not use them unprotected even if you have safe eclipse glasses. Consult the manufacturer for a proper filter to attach to your device.
  • Pinhole viewer: This is a simple, inexpensive way to indirectly view the eclipse. Just take two sheets of white paper (card stock is best) and poke a hole in the middle of one sheet. With your back to the sun, hold the sheet with the hole over the other sheet and adjust them until you see a dot of light. That's the sun! As the moon travels across the sun, a crescent will appear. 

How can you watch it live?

If you're not in the path of totality for the 2024 total solar eclipse Monday, you don't have to miss the historic moment.

There will be plenty of sights to see and ways to watch totality, whether you're simply looking up at the sky (with proper eyewear) or tuning in online or on television.

Details on how to stream the eclipse live.

Why is this solar eclipse special?

Jeanes called the event "the greatest solar eclipse across the U.S. in our lifetime."

For those who remember 2017, it might not seem like the 2024 solar event is all that rare, but according to experts -- it is.

Not only is the path of totality for the solar eclipse in the U.S., it will track through Carbondale in sourthern Illinois once again, marking a repeat from 2017. And for those in the Chicago area, the near-total eclipse will mark the closest the area will to totality in decades.

"The solar eclipses that are going to occur, for the most part, that are going to be visible in our area after this one will not be to the extent that this one is," Michelle Nichols, director of public observing at the Adler Planetarium, told NBC Chicago. "So we're going to see 94% of the sun covered and pretty much all of them in the next several decades in our area won't feature the sun covered at 94%. So if you want to see that, this is going to be your last chance for quite a while."

"This might be the most-watched solar eclipse ever," Nichols added.

Adding to the excitement, a “devil comet” known for its occasional outbursts is currently visible in the night sky, and lucky stargazers may even be able to spot the celestial object during the solar eclipse, according to NBC News.

Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks was nicknamed the "devil comet" because an eruption last year left it with two distinct trails of gas and ice in the shape of devil horns.

The comet may be visible to the naked eye as it swings through the inner solar system and reaches its closest point to the sun in mid-April.

When is the next solar eclipse if you miss this one?

In terms of solar eclipses in the continental U.S., another total eclipse won’t take place for more than 20 years, with a 2044 eclipse occurring in North and South Dakota, among other locations.

A 2045 eclipse will be visible across a wide swath of the central and southeastern United States, but won’t impact Illinois and Indiana.

There are annular eclipses visible in Illinois in 2048 and 2093, but those eclipses don’t cover the same amount of the sun because of the moon’s distance from Earth, and thus aren’t able to be viewed with the naked eye.

According to NASA, the next total solar eclipse that will be visible in Illinois won’t occur until Sept. 14, 2099. That eclipse will be visible in northeastern Illinois, including the city of Chicago, as well as parts of Wisconsin, including Madison, Milwaukee and Kenosha.

On May 1, 2079, a total solar eclipse will give residents of Philadelphia, New York and Boston an incredible spectacle, according to NASA.

Are schools closed for the solar eclipse?

Dozens of schools across Illinois have announced plans to close for the upcoming total solar eclipse on April 8.

According to the Illinois State Board of Education, more than 70 school districts in the state have listed a "not in attendance" day on April 8. 

The closures come as many cities, particularly those in the path of totality, prepare to navigate unprecedented traffic and crowds. Many are also closing to offer families a chance to witness what could be a once-in-a-lifetime experience together.

The state's board of education said while many will not have kids in school, it does not encourage schools to use e-learning days for the event.

"While e-learning is a valid option for educational continuity, districts have been advised against preemptively declaring such days in anticipation of the solar eclipse," the board told NBC Chicago in a statement. "The purpose of e-learning days is to replace emergency closure days. The foreseeable increase in traffic or other anticipated challenges preceding the solar eclipse does not meet the criteria of an emergency that warrants an e-learning day."

See the full list here.

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