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Bloomington one of best places to see 2024 solar eclipse

A total solar eclipse

A solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the sun and the earth. (NASA)

Bloomington will be one of the best places to view the next total solar eclipse over North America.

April 8, 2024, Bloomington’s population could double from people coming into town to be in the eclipse’s path of totality.

The last total solar eclipse over America was in 2017, but Bloomington has not been in an eclipse’s direct path of totality in over 150 years.

Rick Fienberg, project manager for the American Astronomical Society’s Solar Eclipse Task force, said seeing the eclipse in the path of totality is an amazing sight.

“Inside the path, the alignment between the sun and the moon, and you the observer, is exact. So the moon completely covers the sun, and you're in the moon’s dark shadow,” Fienberg said.

It will take over an hour for the eclipse to reach totality, which is the moment the moon completely covers the sun. The totality phase will begin around 3:06 pm and will only last four minutes and three seconds.

“Once the sun's crescent becomes a real thin sliver, it's getting noticeably dark. The sky darkens to the point of twilight,” Fienberg said. “You can see the brightest planets that happen to be out. For this eclipse, Venus will be unmistakable, it's so bright. Jupiter will be very bright too.”

There is so much to see during an eclipse that Fienberg says enthusiasts like him keep going back to see more.

The solar corona is the sun’s hot outer atmosphere, and Fienberg says it is the coolest part to see.

“You see the shape of the sun's magnetic field. You'll see loops, and you'll see a lot of streamers, and you'll see little hair-like spikes at the north and south poles. It's really exceptionally dramatic and beautiful,” Fienberg said.

Despite all the wonder and awe around solar eclipses, they’re not at all rare. They occur somewhere on Earth every six months, but in 2024, North America is the only continent to get the total eclipse. And that’ll be the last one we’ll see here until 2044.

Angie Manuel, interpretive manager for Indiana State Parks, is working with organizations around the state to prepare for the eclipse next year.

“Our division knew that we should take this seriously because following the 2017 eclipse, just a month after that one finished, we started getting phone calls at our inns and lodges for people wanting to make reservations for 2024,” Manuel said.

Lake Lemon is in the center of the path, and Riddle Point Park on the lake is one of the best places to view the eclipse.

Visit Bloomington, Bloomington’s tourism information center, is already adding eclipse events to their online calendar.

Jordan Smith, leisure marketing manager for Visit Bloomington, said businesses should take advantage of the city’s increase in tourists.

“This will be a huge boon. Not just for visit Bloomington, but for the hotels, for the restaurants, for the small businesses in town, for the university, for everybody,” Smith said. “Even if it's just for a four-minute event, we want to try and keep them around for several days.”

Organizations in the area are collaborating to develop safety plans for everything from the influx of traffic to the glasses you need to safely view the eclipse.

Look for eclipse glasses that are marked ISO 12312-2 Standard. According to the American Astronomical Society, this means the glasses have the specific properties that are needed to protect your eyes.

“We're trying to encourage people to become familiar with it, and to be aware of it and to be prepared for it; especially the groups that we're working with. The city government, parks and rec, the airports, etc.,” Smith said.

For many, this is a once-in-a-lifetime event, and people around town are getting excited about watching this natural phenomenon from their own backyards.

“Any solar eclipse is exciting, but when it's in your region, it's more so because you may not get another chance within your lifetime,” Manuel said. “People will come from states away countries away just to see this happen.”

More information about eclipse events will be available in the coming months.

Want to contact your legislators about an issue that matters to you? Find out how to contact your senators and member of Congress here.

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