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A New Englanders' guide to catching the April solar eclipse

A view of the Aug. 21, 2017, total solar eclipse from Madras, Oregon.
A view of the Aug. 21, 2017, total solar eclipse from Madras, Oregon.

It’s not every day the moon blocks people’s view of the sun. It’s even rarer to witness a total eclipse. For many of us, we finally are in the right spot, at the right time.

A total solar eclipse is set to occur on April 8 and northern New England is in a prime spot to see the phenomenon.

What to expect

During a solar eclipse, the moon blocks people’s view of the sun. Depending on where you’re located, it’ll partially block the sun or completely cover it, leaving a ring of fire in the sky. This ring is the sun’s corona, which is something we usually can’t see due to the star’s brightness.

Full coverage of the sun by the moon is called a state of “totality.” If you’re lucky enough to be in the path of totality, the complete coverage of the sun usually lasts between three and four minutes, according to NASA. The sudden daytime darkness can even trick some nocturnal animals in the area to awaken, thinking the day has ended.

NASA has an interactive map that tracks the eclipse’s journey across the Earth by the fraction of a second.

Keep in mind, viewing such an event is all contingent on clear weather. On April 8, we’ll cross our fingers for a clear afternoon.


Let us be clear: staring directly at the sun will damage your eyes. The longer you gawk, the more damage you could do to your retinal cells. Even a quick, direct glance can cause damage.

Staring at an eclipse in progress is no different, but there are safe ways to visually take in the event.

The most common is with solar viewing glasses, according to the American Astronomical Society. These are not your ordinary sunglasses, by the way; they’re thousands of times darker for your safety. If you plan on using these specialized glasses, just make sure they’re made with the right solar filters. The best way to check is to see if the glasses are compliant with the ISO 12312-2 international safety standards — this will almost always be printed on the inside of the glasses frame, according to the American Astronomical Society.

The glasses aren’t a panacea, however. Don’t look at the sun “through camera lens, telescope, binoculars, or any other optical device while wearing eclipse glasses or using a handheld solar viewer — the concentrated solar rays will burn through the filter and cause serious eye injury,” states NASA.

You could also use a handheld solar viewer or try an indirect viewing methods like a pinhole projection.

With all that said, there is one exception. If you’re viewing the solar eclipse in the path of totality and the sun is completely covered by the moon, it is safe to look at it. It’s the moments leading up to the state of totality that can cause damage, according to NASA.

“When the bright photosphere of the sun is completely covered, only the faint light from the corona is visible, and this radiation is too weak to have any harmful effects on the human retina,” NASA said in a total solar eclipse FAQ. “There is a misunderstanding that during a total solar eclipse, when the moon has fully blocked the light from the sun, there are still harmful rays that can injure your eyes. This is false.”

Even with that very specific caveat, just be smart about viewing if you’re planning to check out the event. A safe eclipse viewing is a great eclipse viewing!

Major New England spots in the ‘path’

The path of totality is cruising right through areas of northern New England, and you’ve hit the jackpot if you’re in certain areas of Vermont, New Hampshire, or Maine. Residents of the other states — Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut — are less lucky and will only see a partial eclipse.

NASA identified the more populated areas in New England that are within the path of totality. Check out the times listed below if you’re planning to watch the astronomical event come April.

Burlington, Vermont:

  • Partial eclipse beginning at 2:14 p.m.
  • Total eclipse beginning at 3:26 p.m.
  • Eclipse peak at 3:27 p.m.
  • Eclipse ends at 4:37 p.m.

Lancaster, New Hampshire:

  • Partial eclipse beginning at 2:16 p.m.
  • Total eclipse beginning at 3:27 p.m.
  • Eclipse peak at 3:29 p.m.
  • Eclipse ends at 4:38 p.m.

Caribou, Maine:

  • Partial eclipse beginning at 2:22 p.m.
  • Total eclipse beginning at 3:32 p.m.
  • Eclipse peak at 3:33 p.m.
  • Eclipse ends at 4:40 p.m.

If you’re traveling to Vermont to catch a glimpse of the total solar eclipse in its full glory, Vermont Public Radio put together a great compilation of events taking place across the state.

Future eclipses

If you aren’t in the area for this total solar eclipse, don’t fret. There are more eclipses ahead with different paths across the globe.

NASA compiled future eclipse dates and regions if you’re looking to plan ahead. It just depends on where you are — it’s all about being at the right place at the right time (although we realize the ones in Antarctica may just be out of the question).

  • Oct. 2, 2024: An annular solar eclipse will be visible in South America, and a partial eclipse will be visible in South America, Antarctica, Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean, North America
  • March 29, 2025: A partial solar eclipse will be visible in Europe, Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Atlantic Ocean, Arctic Ocean
  • Sept. 21, 2025: A partial solar eclipse will be visible in Australia, Antarctica, Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean
  • Feb. 17, 2026: An annular solar eclipse will be visible in Antarctica, and a partial eclipse will be visible in Antarctica, Africa, South America, Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean, and Indian Ocean
  • Aug. 12, 2026: A total solar eclipse will be visible in Greenland, Iceland, Spain, Russia, and a small area of Portugal, while a partial eclipse will be visible in Europe, Africa, North America, the Atlantic Ocean, Arctic Ocean, and Pacific Ocean

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.
Copyright 2024 WBUR. To see more, visit WBUR.

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