Your Complete Guide to Viewing a Total Solar Eclipse

Everything you need to know to plan a trip to see the next solar eclipse

Eclipse photos by my friend Dan, whose view was not obscured by clouds…

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The total solar eclipse in April 2024 passed right over my hometown! It was so much fun living in a place where (almost) everyone was excited about this big event, with local shops selling eclipse themed merch/food, everyone leaving work early, and even Wegmans closing their stores for half an hour so their employees could go out and watch the totality.

It was also…cloudy.

So, even though we got to experience the eclipse, not everyone (myself included) got a chance to actually see it in totality! Which means I definitely want to plan a trip to see the next solar eclipse!

If you’re interested in planning an eclipse trip, or what to expect during one, this article has all the information you need (plus some fun creative ideas for throwing an out of this world watch party!).

What’s in this Article?

What is a Total Solar Eclipse

What Happens During a Total Solar Eclipse

When is the Next Solar Eclipse

Tips for Traveling During a Total Solar Eclipse

How to Photograph a Solar Eclipse

Solar Eclipse Party Ideas

What is a Total Solar Eclipse?

Totality of a solar eclipse photo by my friend Dan, whose view was not obscured by clouds…

Types of Eclipses

There are two types of eclipses that occur:

  • A Solar Eclipse is when the moon comes between the earth and the sun, blocking out the light of the sun.

  • A Lunar Eclipse is when the earth comes between the sun and the moon, shrouding the moon in shadow.

Eclipses actually occur about 4-7 times a year. This includes solar and lunar eclipses in their multiple forms (total, partial, etc).

There are four types of solar eclipses:

  • A Total Solar Eclipse is when the moon comes directly in line between the earth and the sun and completely blocks out the sun for a few minutes. During this totality, it gets dark like the middle of the night, and you can remove your eclipse glasses to look at it, because the sun is completely covered.

  • An Annular Solar Eclipse is similar to a total solar eclipse. The moon comes in between the earth and the sun, just like in a total eclipse. The difference is, this happens when the moon is at its furthest point from the earth, and thus the moon is too small in the sky to fully cover the sun. You see the moon in front of the sun, but the sun does not get completely blocked out.

  • A Partial Solar Eclipse occurs when the earth, moon and sun are not completely lined up, so you can see the moon cover part of the sun, but not the whole thing. A partial eclipse is also what you can see happening before and after the totality during a total eclipse.

  • A Hybrid Solar Eclipse is a little confusing, because in some locations it looks like a total eclipse, and in others you can only see a partial, based on the angle of the moon as it crosses the sky.

Totality vs. Partial Eclipse

Some people are right on the edge of the “path of totality,” so they will see something like a 90% eclipse. How big of a difference is the experience between an eclipse at 90% totality and a 100% total solar eclipse?

It is only during a total solar eclipse that the sun is completely blocked out. It will get super dark, like it’s the middle of the night, even though it might only be the middle of the afternoon.

3:30 in the afternoon.

*You do not need to wear glasses during totality; I just put them on for the photo.

It will still get darker during a partial eclipse, but there is not that complete switch from daytime to nighttime. You can even see the sky change colors like at sunset with a total eclipse (if it’s not too cloudy where you are).

The ONLY time you can remove your eclipse glasses is during 100% totality. The sun will be completely blocked out by the moon, and the only thing visible is the outer edge of the sun, known as the corona (Probably why the “Sun Kingdom” in Tangled is called “Corona.” Fun fact).

Depending on where you are, the totality will last anywhere from about 1-6 minutes. During our total solar eclipse in 2024, totality lasted about 3 1/2 minutes in our location. If you are not in the path of totality, you will not experience this phenomenon.

If you have a chance, make sure to travel somewhere in the path of totality for the best experience!

What Happens During a Total Solar Eclipse?

Watching the partial solar eclipse during a break in the clouds, leading up to totality. Also notice my brother-in-law likes to draw math problems in sidewalk chalk…

I had a lot of questions leading up to the big day here in western NY (04/08/24, in case you missed the hype). So here are all the questions I had about what to expect during a total solar eclipse (if you have any questions you don’t see answered here, feel free to email me or comment below).

How dark does it get during a total solar eclipse?

If you’re in the path of totality, the sun is going to be completely covered by the moon for several minutes. When this happens, even if it’s only early afternoon, it is going to get DARK.

Like, deep night sort of dark. Because there’s no sun. Where we were, the street lights came on and the walkway lights came on, so we could still see, but it was a dark, nighttime sky.

Does it get cold during a total solar eclipse?

Since the sun gets blocked, it does get chilly during a solar eclipse. The temperature drop was pretty gradual, and not super drastic, as the sun got more and more covered.

It was a beautiful day for our area (minus the clouds…), around the 60s F, so we were very comfortable outside. I put on an extra sweater over the sweater I already had on, which kept me comfortable during totality. My hands and nose did get pretty chilly though!

You will want to have an extra sweater or layer to put on when the sun gets covered.

Can you still see an eclipse if it’s cloudy?

This was a big question for the western NY area… because it’s always cloudy here (though, for the record, it was gorgeously sunny the days before and after, and the evening right after the eclipse passed…)!

We had breaks in the clouds leading up to totality, where we were able to see the moon start to cover the sun. However, from our angle during totality, we could not see the eclipse at all due to cloud cover. We did still experience the weird nighttime effects.

This also very much depends on where you are, because many people around our town caught a glimpse of the total solar eclipse during a quick break in the clouds, whereas we did not have any breaks during totality.

Does it look like sunrise/sunset during an eclipse?

Some people claimed they saw the sunrise twice in one day! We did not get to experience this because of all the clouds, but based on the videos and pictures I saw (like the one below my friend took in 2017), this does cause a sunrise/sunset effect.

Photo by my friend Aaron, during the 2017 total solar eclipse.

Do animals go crazy during a total solar eclipse?

Some people say to be aware of your pets, as they will not understand why it suddenly gets dark during an eclipse. All of my friends with pets left them home alone (as usual), so we don’t actually know if they reacted to the anomaly.

Some of them did leave all the curtains closed (mostly at the request of their 8-year-old daughter, so that her cat did not accidentally look at the sun and burn her eyes…)

As totality was passing and the sky was brightening again, the birds went crazy! They all took off and starting making a bunch of noise! My friends heard some other animals in the woods making sounds as well, but for the most part that is the only weird effect we noticed.

Should you wear red and green during a total solar eclipse?

We heard that you should wear red and green during an eclipse, because the opposite colors play interesting effects on the eyes.

Since the sky gets dark so fast, our eyes can’t keep up with the adjustments, thus cool colors (like blues and greens) appear brighter, and warm colors (reds and yellows) appear darker. It was suggested that if a lot of people dress in complementary colors (red and green) this would cause a neat effect for our eyes.

We dutifully donned our green sweaters and red pants, but honestly, we were too busy looking up at the sky to notice what anyone was wearing…

When can you take off your glasses during a solar eclipse?

During a solar eclipse you have to wear certified eclipse glasses to protect your eyes the entire time, except for during totality.

When the sun is completely covered by the moon and it looks like nighttime outside, it is safe to take off your glasses and look up without hurting your eyes.

When is the Next Solar Eclipse?

A total solar eclipse in your own neighborhood is a rare event, but a total solar eclipse on earth is not as rare as you might think.

In fact, they happen rather often, just in different places around the world. But it’s good to know that they do not all have the same amount of time of totality.

Our eclipse in 2024 had about 4 minutes of totality in the center of the path. Some eclipses last as long as 6 minutes, but some can be only one or two. Be sure to consider that if you are planning a trip to see the next solar eclipse.

Here is a rundown of when some of the next ones will occur:

  • August 2026- One will occur over Iceland, Greenland and Spain.

  • August 2027- One will cross through Spain and northern Africa, in countries like Egypt and Morroco.

  • July 2028- The eclipse will pass over Australia and New Zealand!

  • August 2044- The next eclipse to pass over the contiguous United States will be in summer 2044 (which is only 20 years from now…!). It will pass across multiple states, like Utah and Florida.

It’s never too early to start looking into planning a trip to view a total solar eclipse! I have a bunch of tips to help you plan the (close to) perfect eclipse trip later in this article.

Tips for Traveling to See a Total Solar Eclipse

If you’re going to travel to see the next solar eclipse, here are some tips to help you plan your trip:

  • Plan your trip to somewhere that is historically sunny (not cloudy!). Although there’s no guarantee with the weather, you have the best chance of seeing the eclipse somewhere that has a lot of sunny weather.

  • Be sure to book your accomodation early! Places will start filling up at least a year ahead of time.

  • If you can, stay close to the place you plan to go to watch the eclipse, to avoid congested travel the day of.

  • Plan an entire vacation, not just a quick trip to view the eclipse. This is good for two reasons:

    • You can travel in well ahead of the eclipse, and not leave until after the majority of the traffic has cleared out, if you plan a longer stay.

    • If there are more fun things in the area you want to do, you won’t be disappointed if your eclipse view turns out to be cloudy.

It’s a lot of fun to be in town when a total solar eclipse is coming. People get excited, all the local stores have eclipse themed specials, and lots of local attractions will host special events in the days leading up to the big day!

I think it is definitely worth traveling to see an eclipse, but just make sure you have plans in place so you’re not disappointed.

How to Photograph a Total Solar Eclipse

Eclipse photos by my friend Dan, whose view was not obscured by clouds.

If you want to photograph a solar eclipse, the first thing you need to do is buy a lens filter for your camera. Your camera lens is just like your eye; it needs to be protected from staring directly at the sun.

If you are in the path of totality, you do not need a lens filter to take pictures during totality, just like you can take off your glasses.

It is good to have a tripod to take pictures during the eclipse, because it will be darker than usual out, meaning you need a long exposure. However, a tripod is not absolutely necessary.

Tips for Photographing a Solar Eclipse:

  • Take note of the where the sun will be in the sky. Check out your viewing location a day ahead of time to know where the path of the sun will be.

  • You can practice taking pictures of the sun with your solar filter before the eclipse occurs, so you have an idea of how the pictures will turn out, and what settings to use.

  • But to be honest… don’t stress about it. You should be able to get plenty of good pictures (as long as the clouds break enough for you to see anything!). I have lots of friends who were able to get good pictures of the eclipse on their phones.

  • Also remember to enjoy this moment, and don’t focus too much on your pictures!

Solar Eclipse Party Ideas

This is the fun part, throwing a total solar eclipse watch party! I highly suggest getting together with friends, or, if you’re traveling somewhere to watch the next eclipse, heading to a public park or space where a lot of people will be gathered. It is just so much more fun to watch with everyone screaming “I see it!” together!

Plus, the eclipse actually lasts a couple of hours (even though totality is only a few minutes), so it’s always good to have snacks.

I told my mom we were going to have a watch party at my sister’s house. She asked if I was going to plan it? I looked at her funny… what is there to plan? We’re going to watch the eclipse…

She said, “Nooo, you don’t get it! Are you going to PLAN-IT? Planet? Get it??”

I actually was pretty impressed with her joke until I saw she stole it off a Facebook meme.

Anyway, here are some solar eclipse watch party ideas:

Easy Foods You Can Buy:

The food is the easy part (and the most fun part!). There are so many solar eclipse themed foods you can get. We had stores selling gift baskets filled with these snacks (and toilet paper rolls that said “I got mooned in Jamestown…”)

Basically, just anything with sun, moon, stars, or some sort of space reference in the name!

Easy foods you can make:

  • Solar Eclipse cupcakes/cookies: Just make your favorite cookie or cupcake, frost them yellow, and stick half an Oreo on top! Super easy (and delicious!).

  • Or you could be more in-depth and make these Ritz crackers eclipse snacks.

  • You can also make anything with “galaxy” frosting. I made the galaxy donuts from my Marvel “Eat the Universe” cookbook (which, let’s be honest, is the only thing easy enough to make in that cookbook!)

    • To make galaxy frosting, you really just need to make several different colors of frosting (blues and purples mostly) and partially swirl them together. You could top any dessert with galaxy frosting!


An eclipse watch party doesn’t really need any games… but I did see this cute idea that would be fun if you get bored, need to keep the kids entertained, or just want an extra fun thing to do!

Pin the moon on the sun! Like pin the tail on the donkey (obvi), except you try to cover the sun with the moon (just like an eclipse!).

Eclipse photos by my friend Dan, whose view was not obscured by clouds.

Any more questions?

If you have any more questions about viewing a total solar eclipse (or stories of your own eclipse watch parties!), feel free to email me or comment below.

Planning to watch the next total solar eclipse?

Save one of the pins below to help you plan-et… (sorry, I had to):