Where You Can Watch the Solar Eclipse

4 minute read

The big map in the little shop in Casper, Wyo., was drawing a lot of attention when I visited on Aug. 20, 2017. A solar eclipse was coming the next day, with totality occurring at 11:43 a.m. Mountain Time. Our TIME reporting and video crew had arrived to cover the event and we selected Casper out of all of the cities and towns across the eclipse’s path, from Salem, Ore., through Carleston, S.C., because it has a very low likelihood of cloud cover at that hot and dry time of year. 

The owner of the little shop had invited guests to place a pin in the map to mark where they lived—and, by extension, how far they’d traveled to see the magnificent sky show. The U.S. portion of the map was almost completely obscured by little plastic pinheads. But every continent in the world except Antarctica was represented too—and the eclipse did not disappoint. The sky was indeed almost entirely clear. Totality was reached precisely when the astronomers had said it would be. And the eerie disappearance of the sun—even when we knew what caused it and the exact second it was coming—was a reminder of why the ancients were so terrified when they witnessed such an event.

Now, another total eclipse is on the way—set to occur on Monday, April 8, 2024. An eclipse is always a must-see phenomenon, but this one is especially so, because it will be the last to touch the U.S. mainland until 2044. If you’re in the path of totality, simply step outside and look up (wearing protective eyewear, of course, until the sun is completely obscured). If you’re not in the path, if at all possible get yourself there. In big and little ways you’ll never be quite the same. So where do you need to go if you indeed want to watch?

The event will begin in the U.S. when the total eclipse shadow crosses from Mexico into Del Rio, Texas, in the southwestern part of the state, at 1:27 p.m. local time. The path of totality, which will then proceed northeast into New England, will be narrow—just 185 km (115 mi) wide, but most of the country will see the sun at least partly blotted out and get at least some darkness. NASA provides an abbreviated list of cities lying in the path of totality, including Dallas, which will see maximum darkness at 1:42 p.m.; Isabel, Okla. at 1:47 p.m.; Little Rock, Ark. at 1:52 p.m.; Poplar Bluff, Mo. at 1:56 p.m.; Paducah, Ky., at 2:01 p.m.; Carbondale, Ill. at 2:01 p.m.; Evansville, Ind., at 2:04 p.m.; Cleveland, Ohio., at 3:04 p.m.; Erie, Pa. at 3:18 p.m.; Buffalo, N.Y. at 3:20 p.m.; Burlington, Vt., at 3:27 p.m.; Lancaster, N.H., at 3:29 p.m.; and Caribou, Maine., at 3:33 p.m. (all times are local).

Read more: Here’s Where You Can See Every Total Solar Eclipse for the Next 50 Years

A much more comprehensive National Eclipse site surveys things in a more granular, state-by-state and town-by-town way. Live in Plano, Texas; Hugo, Okla.; DeQueen, Ark.; West Plains, Mo.; Tamms, Ill.; Henderson, Ky.; New Harmony, Ind.; New Paris, Ohio; North Springfield, Pa.; Chautauqua, N.Y.; Stowe, Vt.; Stewartstown, N.H.; or Jackman, Maine? This site’s got you covered. Other sites, including Astronomy Magazine, the Great American Eclipse, the National Solar Observatory, and many more provide similar information and path-tracking.

If you do make your way to the magical, 115-mi. darkness band, there are a great many things to notice during the three or so minutes of totality: feel the temperature drop, notice the breeze pick up, listen as the birds stop chirping, watch as the drivers flick their headlights on. And do stay silent—beyond, perhaps, the occasional and involuntary gasp. A total eclipse is best experienced quietly, thoughtfully, even reverently—and it’s best grabbed whenever the heavens offer it up to us. If you’re 15, you’ll be old enough to run for president the next time one returns to the U.S. mainland; if you’re 20, you’ll be middle-aged; if you’re 45, you’ll be retirement age; if you’re 70, you’ll be 90. Eclipses are gifts. As with any gift, it’s gracious to accept them when they’re presented to you—and to think about responding with a quiet bit of thanks.

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Write to Jeffrey Kluger at jeffrey.kluger@time.com