In August 2017, scores of Hoosiers donned boxy cardboard protective glasses to catch a glimpse of a solar eclipse, which occurs when the moon’s orbit lines up with the sun and blocks at least some of its light. So, with another eclipse set to occur on the afternoon of April 8, 2024, many people may be inclined to discount it as old hat.
But astronomy experts are urging Central Indiana residents to ditch the “been there, done that” mentality. This time, much of the state is in the path of totality, meaning the sun will be completely blocked by the moon for several minutes. In Carmel, totality will begin at 3:06 p.m. and last for nearly 3 minutes and 30 seconds.
The 2017 eclipse in Indiana pales compared to what’s coming next spring, according to astronomy expert Dan McGlaun. He said many people think eclipse viewing is all the same, but being in the path of totality is an incomparable experience.
“If you are hungry and you eat 99 percent of your meal, you’re going to be full. And people think that’s what (a partial versus total eclipse) is, but it’s not,” McGlaun said. “This is like you went 99 percent of the way to the restaurant, but you stopped in the parking lot. You smell the meal. Or you went to the Super Bowl, but you didn’t get to see the game.”
Keith Turner, planetarium director at Carmel High School, witnessed the 2017 solar eclipse in the path of totality near Hopkinsville, Ky., an experience he described as “magical.” While in the moon’s shadow, he said depth perception alters, colors appear different, edges look incredibly sharp, stars become visible and the temperature drops several degrees.
“It’s just spectacular,” Turner said.
A rare event
Central Indiana hasn’t been in the path of a total solar eclipse since 1869, and after the 2024 event occurs it won’t have another one for nearly 130 years. For most people, experiencing totality is a once-in-a-lifetime event.
That’s why the 2024 eclipse is expected to be one of the biggest tourism draws central Indiana has ever seen, according to Turner, who is helping local municipalities and organizations prepare. Thousands of people who live outside the path of totality are expected to head to the Hoosier state for the full eclipse experience.
“On April 8, 2024, Indianapolis is the closest major city inside the path of totality to Chicago,” said Ken Miller, a retired planetarium director who is helping Hamilton County organizations prepare for the eclipse. “So, if it’s likely to be clear, I would not be at all surprised if 200,000 to 400,000 people in Chicago try to come here.”
Spring isn’t the sunniest of seasons in Central Indiana. Miller said – based on past weather patterns – the odds of clear weather on April 8 is approximately 40 percent. But event organizers are planning for clear skies to ensure they are ready to accommodate the potential crowds.
Many school districts within the path of totality – which stretches from southwest Texas to Maine in the U.S. – have canceled school that day, and experts are urging those in the hospitality business to be prepared for crowds and service industry professionals to consider not scheduling appointments that afternoon.
Experts are encouraging anyone planning to view the eclipse to plan ahead, from clearing afternoon calendars that day to preparing for extra traffic on the roads to securing specialty glasses to safely view the eclipse. The glasses won’t be needed during totality when the sun is completely blocked, but they must be worn at all times before and after totality to prevent eye damage when any of the sun – even the smallest crescent – is visible.
Hoosiers can practice their eclipse viewing during a partial annular eclipse on Oct. 14. The moon’s orbit is more distant during an annular eclipse, meaning it won’t fully block the sun, even in the path of totality. In Indiana, the partial annular eclipse will occur between 11:39 a.m. and 2:28 p.m., with a maximum of 55 percent of the sun covered by the moon. Safety viewing glasses are necessary for the entire partial eclipse.
The path of totality stretches across the southwestern U.S. for the 2023 annular eclipse, so Hoosiers will be far enough removed from it that most will likely not notice an eclipse is occurring, McGlaun said.
To help Hoosiers – and anyone else in the path of the 2024 eclipse – be prepared as possible, McGlaun has created the Eclipse2024.org website. It features a detailed eclipse simulator specific to the 2024 event, safety information, blogs and more.
The website has become a full-time endeavor for McGlaun, a self-described “eclipse chaser” who has traveled to more than 50 nations to witness the phenomenon and has experienced totality more than a dozen times.
The Clayton resident has been invited to provide expert commentary and view the 2024 eclipse in another – often sunnier – locale, but this time he plans to stay put.
“I get 3 minutes and 12 seconds (of totality) at my house, and I plan to see it in my fuzzy slippers in my front yard,” McGlaun said. “I want to watch it from my house.”
View eclipse at Carter Green
The City of Carmel is planning a party to celebrate the 2024 solar eclipse.
The event at Carter Green will include a viewing area, live music and updates and information from an onsite eclipse expert as the moon’s shadow passes through Carmel.
“It’s going to be a unique and special day,” said Anne O’Brien, a project manager for the City of Carmel.
O’Brien said anyone planning to attend the event should expect crowds and traffic, as it will likely be a destination for many visitors who live outside the path of totality.
Learn more at CarmelEclipse.com.
The Carmel High School planetarium will present two shows this month to help prepare the community for the 2024 solar eclipse.
“Sandy Pepper and the Eclipse” is a children’s show about two dogs who witness an eclipse. The show, set for 7 p.m. Oct. 20, covers the science of an eclipse and safe viewing practices.
At 8 p.m. Oct. 20 the planetarium will show “Eclipse: The Sun Revealed,” a program that explores historical and cultural views of eclipses, eclipse geometry and more.
Learn more and purchase tickets for both shows at ccs.k12.in.us/chs/academics/planetarium.