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2024 solar eclipse - where, when and how

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If you don't have specialized eye protection for solar viewing, you can make your own eclipse projector using a cardboard box, a white sheet of paper, tape, scissors, and aluminum foil. (NASA online image)

By Caroline Rosacker

On April 8, 2024, a great portion of North America will experience a solar eclipse, which is defined as a cosmic alignment of the Sun, Moon, and Earth, in that order.

The notable event will begin as the Moon's shadow path makes landfall on Mexico's Pacific coast, crossing the United States beginning in Texas at 1:27 p.m. CDT, and will end in Maine at 3:35 p.m. EDT before exiting North America via Newfoundland, Canada and continuing into the Atlantic Ocean.  

Because the Sun’s diameter is about 400 times larger than the Moon’s, and is almost 400 times farther away from us than the Moon the two appear to be nearly the same size in the sky. When they align this sets up a rare spectacular viewing event. 

When, where and how

Predictions for Northeast Iowa, particularly the Dubuque area, state: the partial eclipse will begin at 12:48 p.m. with first contact, or the moment the edge of the Moon touches the edge of the Sun. 

Maximum eclipse or the deepest point when the Sun is most hidden will occur at 2:03 p.m. with the partial eclipse ending at 3:18 p.m.

Eye protection and safety

It is not safe to look directly at the Sun without specialized eye protection for solar viewing during a partial solar eclipse. 

Eclipse glasses are NOT regular sunglasses no matter how dark the lenses are. Safe solar viewers are thousands of times darker and should comply with the ISO 12312-2 international standard.

Camera lens, binoculars, or telescopes must also have a special-purpose solar filter covering the front of the optic or instant severe eye injury will occur. 

Oldest recorded eclipse

According to NASA, the oldest recorded eclipse in human history may have been on Nov. 30, 3340 B.C.E. Archeologists found a series of spiral-shaped and circular petroglyphs (stone carvings) that shows overlapping, concentric circles at the Loughcrew Megalithic Monument in County Meath, Ireland. Found directly in front of the carving were the charred remains of nearly 50 individuals. Scholars continue to research and discuss the meaning of the petroglyphs. 

Plant and animal behavior

Although humans need protective eye wear during an eclipse, your beloved pet will not need the same protection, but you may witness some evening patterns that will be triggered by the loss of daylight and cooler temperatures. 

Nocturnal animals may think it's time to wake up for their evening prowl, and daytime creatures may be prompted to head for bed. Some flowering plants species that are triggered by daylight may close during the duration of the eclipse, and some triggered to bloom at dusk may open up. 

Make a Pinhole projector

If you don’t have eclipse glasses or a handheld solar viewer, you can use an indirect viewing method, using a pinhole projector, which has a small opening and projects an image of the Sun onto a nearby surface. Do NOT look at the Sun through the pinhole

You can make your own eclipse projector using a cardboard box, a white sheet of paper, tape, scissors, and aluminum foil. With the Sun behind you, sunlight will stream through a pinhole punched into aluminum foil taped over a hole in one side of the box.

During the partial phases of a solar eclipse, this will project a crescent Sun onto a white sheet of paper taped to the inside of the box. Look into the box through another hole cut into the box to see the projected image.

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