Within just a six-month period Texas will experience two solar eclipses: the annual solar eclipse on October 14, 2023, and then the total solar eclipse on April 8, 2024. The next total solar eclipse will not occur in the United States until 2044.
The annual eclipse in October will be a partial eclipse, where the sun will not be completely blocked by the moon. Astronomers say this is mildly interesting, but that it cannot compare to a total solar eclipse.
The April 8 event will be a once-in-a-lifetime total solar eclipse. A wide swath of Texas will experience this total eclipse. The eclipse will also fall over many other states, but because of the greater chance of sunny skies, millions of travelers are expected to journey to Texas to view it.
What is the Eclipse Experience?
At the height of the eclipse, during the time the moon is completely obscuring the sun, solar glasses can be removed, and the full experience can be savored. The experience of totality is far beyond that of a partial eclipse. To quote Ken Love of Placentia, California, who witnessed the 2017 total eclipse:
It is the most beautiful and wonderful natural thing I have seen with my own eyes. You can see and feel the shadow coming. Birds land, crickets start chirping, streetlights come on. The temperature drops; for us it was between 15 to 20 degrees. So strange and awesome. The sunlight goes away…
The Corona is the biggest most amazing spirograph art, jaw dropping. Pictures are neat, but real life – it changes you… At this time, close your eyes for a second and listen; the sound changes, incredible. The 360-degree sunset is a sight to see. It’s one of the most beautiful that you will ever see – there, there, over there, over there, and over there too…
The split second the light comes back, you feel the heat. The diamond ring, speechless. The light that starts hitting your skin feels different and it is so soft, like an artist’s pastel painting. Also, as light comes to strength, the birds fly, and the crickets get quiet. It changes you: you have now seen beauty that you have never seen or felt before.
Just enjoy every second of it. It is magical, and you will want to see another one.
Eclipse Festivals Around the State
Eclipse festivals are being planned all over the state within the path of totality. NationalEclipse.com lists 56 Texas locations with a wide range of experiences, from a concert in the Cave Without a Name (near Boerne), to Celest Fest, a five-day festival in Belton with mystical elements.
In Waco, the City has partnered with Baylor University, Lowell Observatory, and Warner Bros. Discovery to create a day-long family friendly festival with solar telescopes, astronomer talks, and a VIP area called Eclipse Over Texas: Live from Waco. The entire eclipse will be livestreamed by the Discovery Channel. The weekend kicks off with a free concert on Friday night, a STEMfest and glow run on Saturday, and the main event on Monday.
Planning for the Eclipse
Has your city or county planned an event around the eclipse? Even if an event is not planned, Texas needs to be ready for the onslaught of visitors. Traffic studies from the 2017 total eclipse showed that major and minor routes were clogged for hours upon hours after the end of the eclipse. Thousands of hotel rooms and vacation rentals have been booked already, and prices reflect the high demand.
“Eclipse Chasers,” the name given to eclipse fans, are those who plan years in advance to travel to see total eclipses. Some go by RV. Others fly from airport to airport within the path of totality so they can experience the eclipse again and again within a single day.
How to Get Ready
To prepare yourself for the eclipse, first decide what experience you want. Do you want to stay in a hotel, vacation rental, RV, or rough it in a tent? Do you want to attend one of the many eclipse festivals, which vary tremendously in their focus and family-friendliness, or do you want a solitary experience?
You will want to study the eclipse path as well. Eclipse chasers all want the maximum amount of totality—the brief time the sun is completely obscured. The partial eclipse will last about 2 1/2 hours, but totality is the experience the true eclipse fans are chasing. There is a great deal of difference between two minutes of totality and 4+ minutes. You can see a list of cities and the amount of totality they will experience here: solarsystem.nasa.gov/eclipses/2024/apr-8-total/where-when
Book your room, campsite, or find a kind friend you can stay with. Do it early as rooms are already filling up. Plan to stay multiple days to maximize your experience. Avoid those post-eclipse jammed roads on Monday by booking your room for check out on Tuesday.
Purchase solar glasses or special binoculars suitable for solar viewing. Eclipse glasses are not simply dark sunglasses; they should be ISO certified for solar viewing. Some festivals will supply solar glasses as part of the ticket price. You’ll wear the solar glasses throughout the partial eclipse. It will only be safe to take the glasses off during the true totality.
A Final Note
While many eclipse fans are planning to photograph or video the eclipse, you’ll miss out on some of the actual visceral experience if you do this. Eclipse photographs tend to all look the same, and they don’t really convey the feelings we mortals get from seeing our Sun conquered by the Moon. Be in the moment and enjoy!