A total solar eclipse will be on display over a swath of North America on April 8, allowing an estimated 31 million people a chance to step outside and see the sun’s corona in space.

Experts have put together maps that show the so-called “path of totality,” where the moon’s shadow will cross the continent. For people watching from their backyards in that corridor, they’ll have the unusual opportunity to remove protective eclipse glasses for up to 4.5 minutes during totality, when the sun is 100 percent concealed behind the moon.

But we’re not all cartographers. If reading a map isn’t your bag, bookmark this guide. Eclipse calculators, like the ones provided below, can help determine whether your location will be in the moon’s shadow. If it’s not, you’ll at least know how much of the sun the moon will block from your vantage point. Everywhere else in the U.S. mainland, from coast to coast, will get a partial eclipse, meaning some portion of the sun will be exposed, said Michael Zeiler, a geographer and co-founder of Great American Eclipse, a resource for solar eclipses around the world.

“For the people who are in the partial eclipse that can’t get to the total solar eclipse, they can still see some interesting things,” he told Mashable. “One of the most interesting things they can see is the shadow projections from tree leaves because the gaps between leaves in a tree can form these shadows on the ground that are very striking.”

Eclipse calculators can search for past or future eclipses from any specific location. They can also sometimes offer details about how the solar eclipse will display from that particular place, according to the American Astronomical Society. These results come in the form of a table or map.

U.S. Naval Observatory eclipse calculator for April 8

Like many eclipse calculators available on the internet, the U.S. Naval Observatory’s tool asks for a location’s latitude and longitude to compute the eclipse’s local circumstances. But if that’s not information you happen to have off the top of your head, a button to the right, “Need USA Location?,” enters the coordinates automatically when a city and state are selected.

After clicking the “Get Data” button below the form, the calculator provides a table of information, including the time the eclipse starts, peaks, and ends (in UTC, or universal coordinated time). It also gives the duration of the eclipse and the maximum percentage of the sun that will be blocked as the moon passes in front of it.

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Time and Date eclipse calculator for April 8

The Time and Date calculator is perhaps more user-friendly, providing this same information for specific locations. By selecting the “local timings and animations” link, the site offers a diagram of the peak view from your city, as well as an animation of what the eclipse will look like, with stages outlined in a table below it. All times are presented in the location’s own time zone.

Remember that unless you are viewing the eclipse from the path of totality, where the moon entirely blocks the sun, you must not remove protective eclipse eyewear. Looking directly at the sun, even if it’s just a sliver, could result in permanent vision impairment.

When the sun is completely concealed, people have the unusual chance to observe the sun’s corona glowing around the edges of the moon. The corona, the outer layer of the sun’s atmosphere, is normally washed out by the much brighter solar surface.

“For the people who are in the partial eclipse that can’t get to the total solar eclipse, they can still see some interesting things.”

Generally speaking, the moon is expected to first cast its shadow on Mexico’s Pacific coast. The corridor of the moon’s shadow will arc from Texas to Maine, entering Canada through Ontario and exiting the Atlantic coast from Newfoundland. Major U.S. cities that will get to experience the event as a total solar eclipse include Dallas, Indianapolis, and Cleveland.

A colander projects eclipse shapes onto a sidewalk.
Credit: Joy Ng / NASA

For everyone in the partial eclipse’s range, Zeiler recommends bringing a colander or cheese grater outside to project eclipse shapes onto a sidewalk or a piece of white paper. NASA has other ideas for how to make eclipse projectors from household supplies.

But Kelly Korreck, a heliophysicist and the U.S. space agency’s 2024 eclipse program manager, thinks if you’re not in the path of totality, you’re missing out on the best part: the corona. And overall, the event is a whole-body experience, she told Mashable.

“I would definitely encourage, if at all possible, to get to totality to see it,” she said. “Even when you blot out 97, 99 percent of the sun, it looks eerie, but it’s still like an overcast day. It’s not quite the same as the darkness that you get when the sun is completely gone.”

This story originally published in January 2024 and has been updated.

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