From the May 2005 issue

Looking ahead to the Moon’s shadow

When will you next be able to see the Moon block the Sun?
By | Published: May 24, 2005 | Last updated on May 18, 2023
Curious where the next 5 years’ total solar eclipses will occur? How about the next 20 years’? Maybe one’s coming to your locale or you’d like to experience the Moon’s shadow in a foreign land. Fred Espenak has created a World Atlas of Solar Eclipse Paths spanning 5 millennia, from 2000 B.C. to 3000 A.D.
Espenek map
The next total solar eclipse to pass over the United States will occur August 21, 2017. A thin ribbon of darkness will travel from Oceanside, Oregon, to Pawleys Island, South Carolina, with eclipse maximum close to Cerulean, Kentucky. Maximum will last 2 minutes and 40 seconds, occurring at 18h25m28s UT. The thin ribbon will be approximately 71.5 miles (115 kilometers) wide during its cross-country travels.

Astronomy is co-hosting 2 trips to view the March 29, 2006, total solar eclipse.
  • David Eicher, editor, and Michael E. Bakich, associate editor, will chase the eclipse on a Mediterranean cruise. The group will tour Italy and Greece, and intercept the eclipse at sea.
  • Senior Editor Richard Talcott will chase the eclipse on an expedition through Turkey.
  • For more information, visit Astronomy’s trips and tours page.

    Observers in the central United States won’t have to wait as long for the next total solar eclipse, which occurs April 8, 2024. The shadow will be wider than the previous eclipse’s — 123 miles (198km) wide. Eclipse maximum will occur near Santa Maria Del Oro, Mexico, at 18h17m13s UT and will last 4 minutes and 8 seconds. The shadow will pass into the United States after eclipse max — into Comstock, Texas, at 18h30m UT — and travel northeast for roughly an hour. The path’s center will leave the United States before the outer sections, which will pass the northern border of Maine at 19h33m UT.

    Both paths overlap in southern Illinois, southeastern Missouri, and western Kentucky, giving residents two total solar eclipses in 6 years.

    Remember to research weather prospects for the two events before making your observing plans. Cloud-cover averages are a good place to start looking this far in advance. On average in the United States, April is a cloudier month than August. Of course, different areas of the country vary.

    The August 21, 2017, total eclipse
    The August 21, 2017, total eclipse path over the U.S. will encounter anywhere from 40 percent — in Texas — to 60 percent cloud cover.
    Jay Anderson
    The April 8, 2024, eclipse
    The April 8, 2024, eclipse path will stretch across the continental United States. On average, 60 percent of the country will be under cloudy skies in April.
    Jay Anderson
    Visit NASA’s eclipse site for the World Atlas directory.
    Visit NASA’s eclipse site for the World Atlas directory.