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A total solar eclipse will be visible in D-FW on April 8. What causes it? How rare is it?

The D-FW area will experience nearly 4 minutes of totality as the moon appears to block the sun.

Editor’s note: This story is part of The Dallas Morning News’ coverage of the 2024 total solar eclipse. For more, visit dallasnews.com/eclipse.

For nearly four minutes on April 8, Dallas will fall under a celestial shadow. Owls could take flight. Dogs may bark in confusion. And drivers may pull to the side of the road and look to the sky. If they give their eyes enough time to adjust, they might see stars.

Dallas is one of the largest cities along the path of the 2024 total solar eclipse, which will sweep across North America April 8. At approximately 12:23 p.m., the moon will begin to cover the sun, with totality — or total coverage of the sun — beginning around 1:40 p.m. and ending around 1:44 p.m. Exact timing will depend on location in the metroplex.

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About 31 million Americans, and 12 million Texans, live in the path of totality.

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Solar eclipses happen a few times each year but are only visible at specific locations. In October, D-FW bore witness to an annular or “ring of fire” solar eclipse, shaped here like a crescent. Dallas was last in the path of totality on July 29, 1878, and won’t be again until 2317.

“It’s something you may only see once in your lifetime,” said McKenna Dowd, a program coordinator at the University of Texas at Arlington’s planetarium.

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What causes a total solar eclipse?

A total solar eclipse requires a precise astronomical alignment. The moon must pass between the sun and Earth at exactly the right angle, casting its shadow onto Earth.

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Though 400 times smaller than the sun, the moon is 400 times closer to Earth. During the total eclipse in April, the moon will be closer in its elliptical orbit to Earth and will appear to block the sun.

The eerie effects of totality are only visible in certain locations in the direct path of the moon’s shadow. In April 2024, those locations will include Dallas, most of Fort Worth, Waco, Temple, most of Austin and parts of San Antonio.

Glimpse at the corona

When the moon obscures the sun during totality, D-FW residents and visitors can see a dark orb in the sky. They’ll also see a ring encircling the moon, a visible remnant of the sun.

That ring is called the corona, or the sun’s outer atmosphere. The corona can get as hot as 2 million degrees Fahrenheit, but it’s not as bright as the surface of the sun, which we see during the day (barring an eclipse).

What to know about the solar eclipse coming to D-FW in April
Dallas is one of the largest cities along the path of the 2024 total solar eclipse, which will sweep across North America April 8.

The total solar eclipse offers a unique opportunity to catch a glimpse of the wispy corona without specialized telescopes that organizations like NASA use to study it.

How to safely view a solar eclipse

Rose Lavender (back) watched the peak of the annular solar eclipse with Primrose White, 8,...
Rose Lavender (back) watched the peak of the annular solar eclipse with Primrose White, 8, (front left), her sister Violet, 6, (center) and brother Kelmon on Saturday, Oct. 14, 2023, at Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas. (Shafkat Anowar / Staff Photographer)
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Looking at a solar eclipse without eye protection is dangerous, warned Mary Urquhart, a planetary scientist at the University of Texas at Dallas. The sun’s brightness can damage eye tissue and burn retinas in seconds.

Many online listings for eclipse glasses can be counterfeit, but a list of safe options is available on the American Astronomical Society’s website. Glasses should comply with the International Organization for Standardization’s safety guidelines. (A note on the back of the glasses should say they meet ISO 12312-2 requirements.) Sunglasses are not protective enough.

In lieu of glasses, Urquhart said, people can try indirect viewing methods by poking a hole through cardboard, using a colander or holding a cracker to project the image of the eclipse onto the ground or a sheet of paper.

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It’s safe to look at the eclipse without glasses during totality but not before or after, Urquhart said. Before totality, viewers in Dallas will see the sun shrink in the sky until it disappears. They can then take off their glasses and set a timer for about three minutes to bask in totality, before putting on their glasses again for the eclipse’s final phase, when the moon moves slowly away to reveal the sun.

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Adithi Ramakrishnan is a science reporting fellow at The Dallas Morning News. Her fellowship is supported by the University of Texas at Dallas. The News makes all editorial decisions.