Total Solar Eclipse 2024 April 8

The second "Great American Eclipse" in seven years was eagerly awaited for by virtue of its above-average duration of 4m 28s at the point of greatest eclipse in the Durango State of Mexico. First landfall of the moon's umbral shadow occurred on the coast of Mexico near Mazatlan, before sweeping through the Mexican highlands and into south-western Texas where it passed over the populated centres of San Antonio (NW), Austin and Dallas-Fort Worth. Other populated centres included Little Rock, Indianapolis, Cleveland, Niagara Falls and Buffalo. It then passed over the Canadian communities of Hamilton, then just south of Toronto and over southern Montreal, before leaving land near Bonavista, Newfoundland. More details of the path of totality through Mexico, USA and Canada can be found here

Historical cloud data suggested the most favourable viewing areas to be Mexico and Texas (with 40-50% cloud probability in early April), a measure that steadily deteriorated (to 70-80%) north-eastwards along the path through the US and into Canada.   

I decided to be based in San Antonio to join a small eclipse-birding group to explore birding locations around San Antonio during the weekend culminating on eclipse day (Monday) at a site just off the centre line in the Kerr Wildlife Management Area, near Hunt, Texas, where totality commenced at 13:31h (local time) with duration of 4m 22s. Following birding in the morning, we prepared for the eclipse from around 11am. Fears that observing sites would be in huge demand were completely allayed as we had the area almost completely to ourselves. Unfortunately, forecasts of complete cloud cover during the afternoon (which likely had deterred visitors to the area) proved to be correct as we watched large patches of hazy blue sky replaced by heavy cloud cover as morning made way for afternoon. 

Small patches of clear sky allowed first contact to be observed on schedule, but only very brief snatches of the partial phases were available during the one hour and twenty minutes leading up the second contact. However, a thin crescent Sun made a relatively long appearance which enabled some sharp/fuzzy shadow experiments to be conducted in the fading light. It was only then that we noticed the coolness of the air and the quietness all around us. Inevitably, the clouds closed in again and a short while later the rapidly fading light was our only indication that second contact had occurred. Day had turned (almost) to night. Thirty seconds later totality appeared all too briefly through a tiny window in the low level clouds before the beauty was obscured again. Then Venus, to the lower right of the sun/moon, shone brightly and briefly though a cloud gap. Apart from a few even briefer partial views of totality, that was the end of the show for us as the event played out above the thick clouds for the final three and a half minutes. Then daylight returned for keeps for the rest of the day. 

Examination of video footage after the event revealed that the darkness was intensified during the minutes around mid-totality, most likely because the brilliant inner corona had been more fully covered by the moon during this time - compare the bright totality witnessed during the eclipse of 2023 April 20

We then headed back towards San Antonio on minor roads and then onto the I-10, which was packed with vehicles - many people had travelled to the Kerrville area for the eclipse! The normal half hour trip took two hours to complete; the slow pace allowing ample time to enjoy the colourful wildflowers decorating the highway verges. Despite the inclement weather, it was memorable and enjoyable experience. 
Observers to the east of us in Texas fared better, as gaps in the cloud cover appeared just before totality allowing excellent views of the spectacle. Furthermore, the success continued further eastwards along the track, even into Canada. I am delighted that many, many millions of people on that day saw one of Nature's grandest events under favourable skies.


The area around the viewing site in the Kerr Wildlife Management Area was attractively covered with spring wildflowers. Equipment was set up on a margin next to a road to avoid damaging the fragile ecology.

About six minutes to totality the clouds thin briefly to enable a thin crescent to be seen; tripod mounted Canon 5D MkII + 500mm lens + solar filter

With just two minutes to totality, the cloud cover was looking frustratingly likely to impact the views - snapshot from GoPro video

Totality, through the briefest of gaps in the low cloud; tripod mounted Canon 5D MkII + 500mm lens + solar filter

Comparison of relative light levels before (2 mins before C2), and during, totality (30 secs after C2) - snapshots from GoPro video

Fifteen minutes after third contact, the clouds clear just enough to see this end phase of the eclipse; tripod mounted Canon 5D MkII + 500mm lens + solar filter


Eclipse Home