On April 8th, 2024, a total solar eclipse will cast a shadow across North America, momentarily turning day into night along a narrow path from Mexico to Canada.
During the few minutes of totality when the moon completely blocks the sun, the eclipse will have surprising effects on animals, plants, and even the weather.
Birds may go silent and retreat to their nests, fooled into thinking night has fallen. Shadows cast by the moon will form peculiar snake-like shapes on the ground. The rapid temperature drop in the path of totality may cause pop-up thunderstorms.
These are just some of the unusual natural phenomena that will accompany the first total solar eclipse over mainland U.S. in over 40 years.
For the millions of people witnessing totality, the eclipse will be an unforgettable display in the sky. But the celestial event will also create unique and fleeting changes here on the ground.
A Circular Sunset During Totality
While most eyes will be glued to the heavens when day morphs to night, an equally stunning vision will unfold along the horizon for those able to tear their gaze away.
As the moon totally eclipses the sun, the final rays of sunlight will create a vivid 360-degree sunset encircling viewers in fiery hues. On all sides, dusk colors will dramatically stretch toward the heavens in a circular fashion unseen except during totality.
This unique circular sunset occurs because regions just outside the path of the moon's shadow still see a slim crescent of the sun, enveloping areas in totality with postcard-worthy sunset bands.
The effect lasts only as long as the photosphere remains completely obscured during the precious minutes of totality.
When the orange-red colors fade abruptly, the moon's black disk will be revealed in the sky, surrounded by the pearly glow of the elusive corona.
For a few fleeting moments, observers will stand in darkness while sunset colors continue to blaze along the horizon - a surreal juxtaposition only found in the moon's umbral shadow.