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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

How to observe the April 8 solar eclipse in Madison

Where to find eclipse glasses in Madison, why this astronomical event is unique and more.

This Monday, April 8, from 12:51-3:19 p.m., people in Madison will have a chance to observe a partial solar eclipse. At 2:06 p.m., the eclipse will reach a maximum depth point of about 89%, and only a narrow crescent of the sun will remain visible. 

A total eclipse will be visible along a curved line across the United States from Texas to Maine, including cities like Dallas, Indianapolis and Buffalo. Estimates from eclipse cartographer Michael Zeiler indicate more than 32 million people will experience complete darkness in the middle of the day. 

According to Dr. James Lattis, an astronomer at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and director of UW Space Place, the astronomy department’s public education center, a solar eclipse occurs when part of the moon's shadow reaches the Earth's surface, blocking some or all of the sun's surface.

“The most recent North American total solar eclipse occurred in August 2017. We had an annular solar eclipse cross the U.S. last October. The next total solar eclipse to touch the contiguous United States will occur in 2044, though it will not be a very good one. However, a very good one occurs for the U.S. in 2045,” Lattis said.

However, he warned that our eyes can be seriously damaged by exposure to unfiltered sunlight, meaning viewers will need protective goggles to view the eclipse

“During every moment of a partial eclipse, some portion of the sun's surface remains visible, so eye protection or projection techniques are required at all times to examine the sun,” Lattis said.

Eyewear retailer Warby Parker, located at 401 State St. in Madison, will hand out free pairs of ISO-certified solar eclipse glasses leading up to eclipse day so viewers can safely watch this rare astronomical occurrence. Group Health Cooperative of South Central Wisconsin (GHC-SCW) will also be providing free glasses at their primary care clinic locations. 

The path of totality — where people can observe a total solar eclipse — will stretch from North Mexico to Montreal and will be much larger than it was in 2017, making it a highly anticipated event for millions of Americans, according to USA Today.

Within this path, the eclipse will likely be far more impressive than last October’s annular eclipse because a ring of solar surface remained visible then. 

The next total solar eclipse to cross over the U.S. won't happen for another two decades and will not be visible in as many states as this year’s.

While Wisconsin is on the partial eclipse trajectory, Madison may not be the best location to observe the upcoming eclipse as there is a 50% chance of cloudy skies on the day of the event. This could obscure the partial eclipse view even further.

If you're looking to get a full experience of the total solar eclipse, you will need to be within the path of totality. The closest destinations for Wisconsinites will be Indiana or South Illinois, which are about a five-hour drive from Madison.

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View a map of the path of totality from the National Solar Observatory here.

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