Get Ready for the 2023 and 2024 North American Solar Eclipses
North America will soon be treated to two major solar eclipses when the Sun, Moon, and Earth align. On both occasions, nearly everyone in the Americas will have at least a partial solar eclipse. On October 14, 2023, the new Moon will partially cover the solar disk, leaving a ring of the Sun’s fire peeking out from behind in what’s known as an annular eclipse. Then, on April 8, 2024, the Sun will be blotted out of the sky for many excited viewers in North America. Texas gets both!
Both eclipses will be deep partial eclipses in Houston – with 84% and 94% of the sun obscured respectively. This is the first total solar eclipse visible from Texas since 1878. The HMNS Astronomy Dept. is hosting unique, safe, and educational solar eclipse experiences to prepare the public and school groups to observe these events.
Pictured below are seven astronomers with various telescopes set up outdoors near a large wooden barn or other structure. According to accompanying information they are on the S.W. Lomax farm, waiting to observe the total solar eclipse that happened on July 29, 1878.
The Maya and Solar Eclipses
Images: The Dresden Codex, Library of Congress
The Maya also recognized the relationship between the cycles of the moon and solar eclipses and used this knowledge to anticipate future eclipses.
Pages 51 through 58 of the Dresden Codex contain an “eclipse warning table,” which predicted days on which a solar eclipse could occur over a period of 11,960 days. With periodic corrections, the table could be recycled to predict eclipses through December 6, 2140, not all of which would have been visible in the Maya region.
Visit the John P. McGovern Hall of the Americas to learn more about the Maya and Indigenous peoples of what we call the Americas, past and present.
Preparing for the Eclipses
Viewing the Eclipse
Safety first! Never look directly at the Sun unless it is totally eclipsed. The Sun can burn the retinas in your eyes, leading to permanent damage or even blindness. This can occur even if your eyes are exposed to direct sunlight for just a few seconds. For viewing an eclipse safely use a projector or eclipse glasses, sunglasses don’t work.
You can also wear eclipse glasses, made with special solar film designed to protect your eyes. Eclipse glasses are now available in the Museum Store.
Burke Baker Planetarium Shows
Totality Over Texas
Opening March 13 and running through April 8, 2024
During this daytime program, discover what causes eclipses and experience what will happen in Texas in 2023-24. Journey to the Moon and watch eclipses while looking back toward Earth. Then, leave the Earth-Moon system to discover the geometry of eclipses—even watching a solar eclipse from Mars!
Click here to see the schedule and get tickets.
Planning Your Solar Eclipse Experience
Opening March 22
Join us Wednesday evenings starting March 22 to learn how to prepare for your total solar eclipse experience. This program includes excerpts from the Totality Over Texas planetarium program plus demonstrations on making solar pinhole projectors, photographing the eclipse, and how to plan your own trip or join ours. Each attendee will receive a solar viewing card with instructions on how to use it and how to photograph through it.
Click here to see the schedule and get tickets.
Explore the universe… at your location! The Discovery Dome takes audiences on a journey not possible anywhere else. Our portable inflatable dome theater brings stars, planets, dinosaurs, volcanoes, tornadoes, DNA and much more to your school or group—with over 30 different films to choose from. Most shows offer Spanish versions as well!
Each full-dome film or live presentation lasts 30 minutes, and you may choose several presentations during the same visit. Extended and late scheduling hours are also available. Preview additional Discover Dome shows here.
Totality Over Texas! The Great Solar Eclipse Experience
Available starting March 20
Experience the Totality Over Texas planetarium program with simulations best viewed in a portable dome that includes interactivity with students. Teachers receive one classroom eclipse kit containing 25 eclipse viewing cards and instructions on how to use them on lanyards with many classes and other experiments, good for totality and for the partial eclipse experience anywhere in Texas. A second kit may be purchased for an additional $25 at time of booking. Information about eclipse timing is adapted for the location of the presentation.
Click here for more information. Ready to book? Click here.
Optional Add On: Sun viewing with a solar telescope
This program is presented outside if the weather is clear and can be moved indoors if it is cloudy demonstrating the activities and the viewing cards in preparation for the eclipse. Indoors, students learn to make solar eclipse viewers. This requires a second operator/teacher and doubles the cost. Travel costs must also be added.
October 14, 2023: Annular Eclipse
Annular means ring-shaped. The name “annular” comes from the Latin word for ring, “annulus.” An annular eclipse occurs when the moon is further away in its orbit from the earth, and thus appears smaller in the sky. In an annular eclipse, the whole moon does cross the sun’s path, but, since it appears smaller, it does not block the sun completely. Thus, the outer edge of the Sun remains visible as a brilliant ring, often called a “ring of fire,” for those inside the path of the annular solar eclipse. The last annular eclipse seen in Houston was on November 22, 1919—103 years ago! See the interactive map here and here.
The annular eclipse crosses Texas and visits the metropolitan areas of Midland and Odessa, San Antonio, and Corpus Christi. The shadow of the Moon leaves the United States at Padre Island at 12:03 p.m. CDT. At this point, the Moon’s shadow is traversing at 1,722 miles per hour and the eclipse is 51 degrees high in the sky. The maximum duration of annular solar eclipse in Texas is 4 minutes and 53 seconds.
Annular Solar Eclipse Celebration at Hermann Park
Saturday, October 14, 2023
Join us for a fantastic, family-friendly solar celebration at the Museum’s Sundial to observe the deep partial phases! More information is coming soon.
April 8, 2024: Total Solar Eclipse
After all the excitement of the great solar eclipse of 2017, this is the next big chance we all have to see totality in North America. A total solar eclipse occurs when the new Moon passes between the Sun and the Earth, and totally blocks out the Sun. See the interactive map here and here.
Some sights are only visible during a total solar eclipse. They appear in this order as totality sets in (and in reverse order as totality ends):
1. Shadow Bands: About a minute before totality, moving, wavy lines of alternating light and dark can be seen on the ground and along walls. These shadow bands are the result of Earth’s turbulent atmosphere refracting the last rays of sunlight.
2. Diamond Ring: Seen about 10 to 15 seconds before and after totality, the solar corona (the outer atmosphere of the Sun) becomes visible. Together with the single jewel of light from the Sun shining through valleys on the Moon, it creates the well-known diamond ring effect.
3. Baily’s Beads: About five seconds before totality, Baily’s beads appear as the diamond ring fades. They are little bead-like blobs of light at the edge of the Moon created by the sunlight passing through gaps in the mountains and valleys on the Moon’s surface.
4. The Sun’s Corona: As the diamond ring fades, the outermost part of the Sun’s atmosphere becomes more prominent. It is visible as a faint ring of rays surrounding the silhouetted Moon and is around 200–300 times hotter than the Sun’s surface—its temperature can reach over 1 million °C (1.8 million °F).
5. The Sun’s Chromosphere: The second most outer layer of the Sun’s atmosphere gives out a reddish glow. It is only visible for a few seconds right after totality.
HMNS has you covered—see the eclipse at a getaway weekend or stay here in Houston!
Texas Totality Weekend at LoneHollow Ranch
April 6 – 8, 2024
Click here for more information, including the full itinerary and registration.
Total Solar Eclipse Celebration at Hermann Park
Monday, April 8, 2024
Join us for a totality awesome, family-friendly solar celebration at the Museum’s Sundial to observe all of the total eclipse phases! More information is coming soon.