Weather Center

How to View an Eclipse in Texas

By Peter Simek 11.18.19

Almost every year, our planet experiences a magical phenomenon: The moon passes between us and the sun, casting its shadow over the earth and throwing parts of the world into darkness, creating the eerie experience of a midafternoon midnight.

There will be three solar eclipses in 2019 — over northeast Asia and southwest Alaska in January, South America in July, and parts of the Middle East, India, Malaysia, and Indonesia in December. For Texans, however, it has been a long time since a total solar eclipse was visible in the Lone Star sky — for Dallas, since 1878, when the city was hardly more than a fledgling town on the prairie.

We won’t get to see another total solar eclipse until 2024, when the moon’s shadow will pass straight through the heart of Texas. But there’s plenty more to see in Texas’ night skies in 2020. In the meantime, read on for everything you need to know to view an eclipse in Texas. When the time comes, it will be pretty special.

Solar Eclipses

Solar eclipses typically occur twice a year. The most we’ll see in one year is five, though we haven’t seen that many in one year since 1935. There are several types of solar eclipses, which depend on the position of the moon’s orbit.

  • A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon blocks out the sun.
  • A partial solar eclipse occurs when the moon’s path only brings it past part of the sun.
  • An annular eclipse occurs when the moon passes in front of the sun but is so far from earth in its orbit that it does not appear large enough to cover the entirety of the sun. When this occurs, a bright golden circle, called the “ring of fire,” appears around the black moon.
  • A hybrid eclipse is a very rare occurrence. It starts and ends as an annular eclipse but, for a period, appears like a total eclipse.

The 2024 Eclipse

The next total solar eclipse visible from the lower 48 states will pass directly through the heart of Texas and travel roughly up I-35, beginning in the border town of Del Rio before passing west of San Antonio and nearly directly over Austin, Waco, and Dallas. And while those cities will have the best view of the event, all of Texas will experience at least a partial darkening.

Most of the state will experience between 90% and 100% coverage. Some Texans might think about making the drive of the eclipse’s main path to see the whole thing. After all, once the 2024 eclipse passes, the next chance Texans will have to glimpse a total solar eclipse won’t be until 2045, and the total eclipse will only be visible from parts of the Panhandle.

Lunar Eclipses

Lunar eclipses occur when the earth passes between the sun and the moon, casting the earth’s shadow over the moon, giving it a red glow. They typically occur twice a year. There are three basic types:

  • A total eclipse occurs when the moon, sun, and earth are aligned, and the moon passes through earth’s shadow, or “umbra.”
  • A partial eclipse occurs when the moon, sun, and earth are imperfectly aligned, and part of the moon passes through the earth’s umbral shadow.
  • A penumbral eclipse occurs when the three bodies are imperfectly aligned, and the moon passes only through the faint outer part of earth’s shadow (the penumbra).

A penumbral lunar eclipse is difficult to discern from a normal full moon, but careful observers can see them at their height. Texas will be able to see two penumbral lunar eclipses in 2020: on July 4 and Nov. 30.

How to View an Eclipse

Given how rare eclipses are, you want to be ready to experience the phenomenon fully and safely. You can safely look at lunar eclipses, but it’s important to use eye protection to view a solar eclipse.

Even though a solar eclipse blocks out most of the sun’s light, looking directly at it can be very dangerous. Whether the eclipse is full or partial, your eye will focus on whatever sunlight is passing into the atmosphere of the earth, which could burn your retina and create permanent eye damage.

There are a few safe and easy ways to view a solar eclipse:

  • Create a homemade pinhole projector: Make a small hole in a piece of cardboard and hold it in front of another piece of cardboard so that the light passing through the hole creates the image of the eclipse on the other piece of cardboard.
  • Attach a solar filter to a telescope or binoculars.
  • Buy solar eclipse glasses.

Find more stargazing here.

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