Astronomy: Total solar eclipse in North America


The total solar eclipse is a spectacle: the astronomical event of the year, which is only visible from Central and North America, from Mexico to Canada, can also be admired from Italy thanks to various live broadcasts that will start from 19:00 (Roman time). In particular, the National Institute of Astrophysics is at the forefront, broadcasting the event on its Facebook and YouTube channels.

“Nuovi Mondi” live special. In order to tell the story of the great eclipse, it is planned to connect with teams of Inaf researchers present in different cities (from Mexico to Canada to the USA) to follow the entire path of the lunar shadow.: in Mexico the Inaf team from Turin Eclipse 2024, in Kerrville, Texas by Clementina Sasso from Naples Inaf, in Burleson, Texas by Media Inaf correspondent Albino Carbognani, in Ennis, Texas by Inaf team from Rome Vulcanoidi and in Niagara Falls by Media Inaf correspondent Maura Sandri.

Today’s eclipse is an unmissable spectacle, partly because we will have to wait until August 2, 2026 to admire a similar event from Italy, but it will be better seen from Spain and Egypt. It will also be the longest total solar eclipse visible from the United States since 1806: for those in areas near the Mexican border, it could reach 4 minutes and 26 seconds, just short of the 1806 eclipse that lasted 4 minutes and 55 seconds. A longer eclipse also means a very dark eclipse: the greater darkness could make visible not only planets like Venus and Jupiter, but also comet 12P/Pons-Brooks, which will reach its closest point to our star on April 21 and is currently located not far from Jupiter. The event comes after the beautiful lunar eclipse that took place in recent weeks, which once again rewarded North America.

Finally, the eclipse occurs in connection with the period of maximum solar activity: this means that the Sun’s corona, the outermost part of its atmosphere, will appear much larger, up to 5-6 times the diameter of the star itself, and its shape will resemble a sunflower or the sun, as they are usually drawn by children. The last time a total solar eclipse visible from North America coincided with maximum solar activity was on February 26, 1979, and even then the event was fascinating and engaging for the entire population. Among other things, there is no accommodation available on the virtual crescent from which the eclipse could be viewed from Earth, suggesting that tourism in North America is linked to astronomy and space exploration (for example, on the occasion of launch vehicles into space) is now consolidated and consistent areas. The event will therefore be an important test for current theories about the behavior of the solar atmosphere, which is crucial because it is responsible for solar storms that can hit Earth.

Albino Carbognani, a researcher from the INAF in Bologna, will try to verify how many stars can be seen in the sky during the eclipse: the sky never actually gets completely dark because the moon’s shadow is only 200-300 km long and the sky background is comparable to twilight about 40 minutes after sunset. From Burleson (Texas), the Inaf researcher will also try to observe any objects around the Sun in the orbit of Mercury: the so-called “volcanoids”, predicted by theories of the formation of the Solar System. Another goal will be to document the elusive and unpredictable phenomenon of “flying shadows,” a series of parallel bands that are alternately light and dark due to the refraction of the last rays of the sun, moments before the onset of totality, across the Earth’s surface. atmosphere. During this eclipse, there’s also the chance to capture all the planets in the solar system in a single frame, from Mercury to Neptune, plus comet 12P/Pons-Brooks in a gigantic “family portrait.” Finally, we want to recreate the different phases of the eclipse and the totality with the chromosphere and solar corona for educational and informative purposes. “Despite space missions,” says Carbognani, “a total solar eclipse is always an opportunity to study extremely elusive phenomena or celestial bodies.” Not only other important INAF researchers are involved in other observation missions.

Hundreds of thousands of people in North America will turn their eyes to the sky to enjoy the spectacle of a total solar eclipse that will cast a shadow over a kilometer of land stretching from the Pacific to the Atlantic. But in the past, this astronomical phenomenon was not always greeted with the same mood of excited curiosity by the inhabitants of the planet. Many ancient cultures believed that what happened in the heavens reflected past, present, and future events on Earth. This was especially true of the Maya. These Indians considered distance in space and distance in time to be the same. In other words, looking far into space served as a kind of portal to the past. When the ancient Mayans observed an eclipse, they saw an event where it looked like the moon was eating the sun. They interpreted it as a glimpse into the cannibalistic practices of their ancestors, which had long since been banished from their laws. The Mayans weren’t the only ones who believed they saw the sun being eaten. In ancient Chinese mythology, a solar eclipse occurred when a dragon tried to swallow the sun. In response, people flocked to the streets and beat drums to scare away the dragon. For the ancient Greeks, the eclipse was a sign of the gods’ rebuke to the people, a kind of retribution for which the Sun left the Earth.

The word eclipse is etymologically derived from the Greek word “ekleipsis” meaning “abandonment” or “abandonment”.

Inspired by a solar eclipse that occurred in 647 BC, the poet Archilochus wrote: “Nothing is beyond hope, nothing to be sworn off impossible, nothing wonderful, since Zeus, the father of the Olympian gods, made night from noon and hid the light of the bright sun, and great fear came upon the people.” According to the legend of the Choctaw Native Americans, the cause of the eclipse was a malevolent black squirrel that was gnawing at the Sun. Like the Chinese dragon, the squirrel must have been scared away by the screams and shouts of human witnesses to the event. Ojibwa and Cree Nations they told the story that a boy (or sometimes a dwarf) named Tcikabis wanted revenge on the Sun for burning him. Despite his sister’s protests, she trapped the Sun and caused an eclipse. Several animals tried to free the Sun from the trap, but only meek mice succeeded in biting the ropes and returning the sun to its path.Ancient Hindu mythology provides a very disturbing explanation for the solar eclipse.According to the legend, a cunning demon called Rahu tried to drink the nectar of the gods to achieve immortality. Disguised as a woman, Rahu attempted to attend the banquet of the gods, but was discovered by Vishnu. As punishment, the demon was immediately beheaded, and it is his severed head that flies across the sky to cover the Sun during an eclipse.


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