Tens of thousands may visit Waco on April 8, 2024, for ideal viewing of the next total solar eclipse, which astronomers predict will last around twice as long as the last one in 2017, officials said at a press event Friday.
The city of Waco will partner with the Lowell Observatory of Flagstaff, Arizona, Baylor University and Discovery Inc. to create in-person and televised events for that next eclipse of the sun in exactly two years, Waco Mayor Dillon Meek said at the event.
People who miss seeing the 2024 eclipse in Waco will not have another chance in the continental United States to see one until 2045, Lowell Observatory spokesperson Danielle Adams said.
“The sky darkened and the sun turned silvery,” Adam said, describing the last total eclipse viewing from Oregon during 2017. “Birds stopped singing and crickets started chirping.”
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Viewers saw “a dramatic diamond ring flash as the last of the sunlight disappeared.”
And then at totality, the stars came out, Adams said.
“The horizons were surrounded with sunset colors,” she said. “What was left of the sun was a (black) velvet hole in the sky with slivery tendrils of the corona glowing out from the sides.”
Totality lasted for about two minutes at that eclipse, Adams said. Her colleagues at the Lowell Observatory have predicted the next one in Waco will last longer than four minutes.
Adams said there will be safe viewing set up at McLane Stadium, and astronomers will be on hand to talk about the science.
A total eclipse can be viewed only rarely, Baylor astrophysicist Barbara Castanheira-Endl said.
“It is such an amazing coincidence that the sun and the moon both have the same angular width,” Castanheira-Endl said. That means that each appears the same size from the surface of the earth.
When the moon moves between the sun and the earth, the sun appears to be completely covered from certain points around the world, called the path of totality, she said.
If the moon’s path around the earth were not inclined 5 degrees, total eclipses would happen often, but that inclined orbit means that eclipses happen years or decades apart, Castanheira-Endl said.
Hundreds of thousands may view this rare celestial occurrence through event programming Discovery will create to bring the experience to television audiences around the world, Scott Lewers, Executive Vice President of Multiplatform Programming, Factual and Head of Content, Science, for Discovery, Inc., said in pre-recorded video for the event.
Baylor University’s McLane Stadium will be the gathering place for thousands of viewers as well as astronomers and other scientists from the Baylor faculty and the Lowell Observatory, Baylor spokesperson Jason Cook said.
“We usually say, ‘Baylor lights shine bright,’ but for this one-time-only event, darkness will allow us to shine,” Cook said.