Where are you going? It seems like a fairly open question and yet when people ask me they’re almost always referring to April 8, 2024. Not only is that the date of the next total solar eclipse in North America, but it’s also the final major totality to come to the US and Canada until 2045. So you don’t want to get this one wrong.
So what’s the answer to the question? There’s not one answer, but thousands, and most of them are provided by Field Guide to the 2023 and 2024 Solar Eclipses (GreatAmericanEclipse.com, $20), an excellent collection of highly detailed maps accompanied by some incisive text … and even two free pairs of eclipse glasses!
Its 112 pages are sensibly spiral-bound in road atlas-size, something that should make it handy to use in the car if there’s a need to ‘chase’ clear skies). That could be decisive. Since this celestial event occurs in spring and the path of totality crosses highly populated regions of North America (unlike the last one) there is likely to be clouds.
In fact, given that as many as 31,625,000 live in the path of totality – compared to just 12 million in 2017 – there could be a lot of people driving about on April 8, 2024.
As such, there ought to be a huge market for this book. It begins with an introduction by ex-senior editor of Astronomy magazine Michael Bakich to eclipses and experiencing totality, and also includes valuable timing data and even information about what planets and stars to look for during totality. It then takes a state-by-state look at the path of totality beginning with the Pacific coast of Mexico and crossing 13 U.S. states and eastern Canada, with plenty of color photographs of possible observation locations and advice about eclipse-chasing on the day. The text also includes dozens of references to astronomy-related things to see and do, such as planetariums and science museums.
However, it’s the maps from New Mexico-based eclipse cartographer Michael Zeiler that are the star of the show, with glossy color double-pagers marked not only with all major and minor roads, towns, and cities, but with the exact duration of totality throughout the path. It’s exquisitely detailed and designed to be easy to read at-a-glance.
However, before all the excitement about 2024 there’s a bonus. A warm-up, you might say, in the shape of an equally comprehensive maps-galore treatment of the annular solar eclipse on October 14, 2023. That “ring of fire” event won’t be as affecting as totality since it won’t bring a view of the Sun’s corona, but it will still be a wondrous view albeit one only safely viewed through solar eclipse safety glasses. The 125-mile-wide path of annularity crosses Oregon, Utah, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Texas. That’s where this books detailed maps cease, so those on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula or in Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Colombia and Brazil will need to look elsewhere.
If 2023 will be a warm-up, and an important one for getting the word out about the need for solar eclipse safety glasses, there’s no doubt about the main event. It was Zeiler who coined and/or popularized the phrase “Great American Eclipse” last time out with his website GreatAmericanEclipse.com so it’s fitting that this new book is the new bible for anyone already preparing for the 2024 eclipse.
Jamie Carter is the editor of WhenIsTheNextEclipse.com and author of The Complete Guide To The Great North American Eclipse of April 8, 2024.