Satellite Images Capture Total Paths of North American Solar Eclipses in 2017 and 2024

North America saw two total solar eclipses in a relatively short span of seven years. Not to mention time flies, and the 2017 eclipse feels like last year. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) GOES-16 satellite captured both events, with contrasting paths of the moon's shadow streaking across the continent.

The first eclipse (check out the photos!) took a northwest-to-southeast route, stretching from Oregon to South Carolina. This is the first time in 99 years that a total eclipse has crossed the entire width of the United States. Fast forward to April 8, 2024, and another stunning scene unfolds. During this time, the eclipse moved from southwest to northeast, casting a shadow from Mexico to southeastern Canada.

The GOES-16 satellite documented both eclipses in detail, capturing snapshots of the moon's shadow every 5-10 minutes. Scientists used these images to create composites that reveal dramatic differences in the paths of totality, a short period of total darkness when the Moon completely covers the Sun.

Composite images show how the moon's shadow fell at different locations during each eclipse. NOAA also shares Videos and interactive sliders allow comparison of shadow size, duration, and darkness between two instances.

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2024 Solar Eclipse
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A composite of the minimum brightness of API Band 3 (0.86 micrometers) every 10 minutes at noon on April 8, 2024.

The 2017 eclipse path is a short corridor that passes through fourteen states: Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. In contrast, the April 2024 eclipse spanned several US states including Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, and as far as Maine and southeastern Canada.

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2017 Solar Eclipse

Beyond the path variations, there were other key differences. The 2017 eclipse provided a maximum of 2 minutes and 40 seconds. Total lane width is also significantly different – ​​just 70 miles in 2017 compared to a substantial 115 miles in 2024. This difference is due to the Sun's approach to a period of heightened activity later in the year.

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Solar eclipse overlap
Time compiled from 2017 and 2024 (minimum value) ABI Band 3 images (every 5 minutes)

If you missed the eclipse, plan a trip to Spain in the next three years. That's right, three solar eclipses in a row in this country!

[via Space.com; image credit: NOAA]

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