Meteor showers and comets are amazing occurrences to see, but no celestial event is as awe-inspiring as a total solar eclipse. The main reason is that a total solar eclipse is rarer than other eclipses, and the 2024 total solar eclipse will be particularly special — and spectacular.
Since the total eclipse will practically pass over the center of Maine, there are plenty of places from where you can watch this fascinating spectacle. Whether you’re a Mainer or a visitor, here’s everything you need to know about eclipses and when and where to see the 2024 total solar eclipse.
The 2024 total solar eclipse will pass through Maine on April 8, 2024, beginning at 3:28 p.m. EDT and ending at 3:35 p.m. EDT. The speed of the Moon’s shadow will travel an average 2,868 miles per hour across the state.
What Is an Eclipse?
An eclipse happens when the sun, moon, and Earth are aligned, changing how the sun and moon appear to us. Our sweet spot on this planet allows us to see this intriguing cosmic coincidence.
Eclipses are occurring less and less as time goes on, especially total solar eclipses. The reason is that the moon continues to be pulled away from Earth, so when it comes between the sun and our planet, it blocks out less of the sun. In the distant future, there will be no more total solar eclipses.
Interesting Facts About Eclipses
There are tons of interesting facts to learn about eclipses, but we’re going to list just a few of the most interesting here:
- The word “eclipse” comes from the Greek word “ekleipsis,” which means “the darkening of a heavenly body,” “the downfall,” or “the abandonment.”
- The first known record of an eclipse is from 3340 B.C. on circular stone carvings in Meath Ireland.
- A total eclipse happens every 1.5 years but only happens an average of once every 360 years over the same location.
- If the moon’s orbit was a perfect circle, there would be a total solar eclipse every new moon.
- Only partial solar eclipses can be seen in the north and south poles.
- The longest total solar eclipse in known history was nearly 7.5 minutes on June 15, 743 B.C.
- Canadian astronomer J. W. Campbell traveled around the world for 50 years chasing eclipses but never saw one because of overcast skies.
- Christopher Columbus used the lunar eclipse of Feb. 29, 1504, to convince the natives of Jamaica to help him or he would cut off the moon’s light.
When & Where Does the 2024 Path of Totality Pass Over Maine?
The 2024 total solar eclipse will occur on Monday, April 8, 2024. The path of totality is where the moon’s shadow is cast on the Earth as it completely blocks out the sun. Cities near but outside of this path will only see a partial solar eclipse.
In Maine, the path of totality is home to about 99,000 residents. And, tens of thousands of people are expected to visit various cities and towns across the state to watch, especially in Aroostook County where the eclipse will develop last and for some of the longest periods.
The center of the eclipse’s path will cross the Maine state line at about 2:18 p.m., and the totality phase will begin at about 3:28 p.m. at that location. Before crossing over the Canada border at about 4:41 p.m., the totality phase will end at about 3:35 p.m. in Maine.
Most of the path of totality passes over the more remote parts of Maine. But that shouldn’t stop you from planning a trip to watch it, especially since there are still numerous towns to go to. Here’s a look at several of these towns and some things to do while you’re here.
NOTE: We’ve provided the time of totality for each town below, but the partial eclipse will occur about 1 hour and 10 minutes beforehand. To get the most out of the experience, we recommend arriving at your chosen destination at least 2 hours before totality. The whole event will last about 2.5 hours.
The totality of the 2024 solar eclipse will occur in Rangeley at about 3:29 p.m., and it will last 2 minutes and 24 seconds. While you’re here, you can go skiing at Saddleback Mountain before the season ends or enjoy a picnic atop Quill Hill.
You could also go on a flight tour with Acadian Seaplanes. It offers fly-and-dine, explorer, Rangeley Lakes, and other sightseeing tours.
Carrabassett Valley Maine
In Carrabassett Valley, the totality phase will begin at about 3:29 p.m. and last for 2 minutes and 24 seconds. Sugarloaf is a great spot for skiing, and you can enjoy biking, walking, and more on the Narrow Gauge Pathway. Exploring the Maine Huts and Trails is another option.
At the center of the path, the totality phase will start at about 3:29 p.m. in Jackman and last 3 minutes and 26 seconds.
Two beautiful spots to visit here are the Attean Pond and Overlook. You can see the surrounding mountains from the outlook. And, don’t leave before getting some maple syrup from Sawyer’s Maple Farm.
RELATED: Jackman Hotels, Inns, and Lodging
In Binham, totality will start at about 3:30 p.m. and last for 1 minute and 45 seconds. One way to explore this town and its remote areas is to hop on an ATV, snowmobile, or boat via rentals and tours with 201 PowerSports.
The 2024 eclipse’s totality will start at about 3:30 p.m. in Moscow and last for 1 minute and 51 seconds. You can visit the picturesque Wyman Lake while you’re here.
In Greenville, the totality phase will begin at about 3:30 p.m. and last about 3 minutes and 2 seconds. This town is home to hiking trails in Lily Bay State Park and boat tours with Katahdin Cruises & Moosehead Marine Museum.
Totality will begin in Dover-Foxcroft at 3:31 p.m. and will last almost 1 minute and 21 seconds. Consider exploring Peaks-Kenny State Park during your visit. It features a 10-mile network of trails, which offer many opportunities for adventures.
Clayton Lake Maine
In Clayton Lake, the phase of totality will start at 3:31 p.m. and last about 1 minute and 27 seconds. You could hike the 1.6-mile trail nearby to climb Allagash Mountain. Just prepare for a moderately challenging trek.
The totality phase will begin at 3:31 p.m. in Millinocket and last for 2 minutes and 56 seconds. On eclipse day, this town will host the Millinockeclipse foot race, which you can sign up to participate in.
Also, the town is home to Baxter State Park & Mount Katahdin and the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument — both of which have plenty of wild landscapes to explore and spectacular views. For airborne views, book a tour with Katahdin Air Service.
With Houlton near the center of the eclipse path, totality will begin at 3:32 p.m. and last 3 minutes and 18 seconds. This means that the town is one of the last places to view the phenomenon and has one of the longest periods of total darkness.
You can explore the 37-mile Southern Bangor & Aroostook Trail, which threads through the countryside from Houlton and through Monticello, Bridgewater, and Mars Hill before reaching the edge of Presque Isle.
Additionally, several community businesses are planning events — craft fairs, concerts, cross-country eclipse viewing and tracking, farmers’ markets, and a road race that lasts 3.32 km to match the time of totality. From live music to viewing areas designated as Star Parks, the four days of events start the Friday before the eclipse, April 5.
Expecting 10,000 to 20,000 onlookers, town planners have purchased 60,000 solar viewing glasses just in case more people arrive.
Mars Hill Maine
Also near the center of the eclipse, the phase of totality will start in Mars Hill at 3:32 p.m. and last for 3 minutes and 12 seconds. Just before it closes, you may be able to enjoy a day at BigRock Mountain, a ski area that also has a snow tubing park and winter rollercoaster.
NOTE: Houlton and Mars Hill are two of the last towns on this list to have a good view of the eclipse before it leaves Maine’s skies.
Presque Isle Maine
In Presque Isle, the 2024 eclipse’s totality will begin at 3:32 p.m. and last almost 2 minutes and 49 seconds. It’s home to the nearly 800-acre Aroostook State Park, which encompasses Echo Lake and Quaggy Jo Mountain.
Also, the city is gearing up to hold numerous events for the 10,000 to 40,000 visitors that it expects to host. Planners have already designated five viewing areas and expect to have a dedicated eclipse website with a map, a schedule of events, safety tips, and info about lodging and dining in the city during the spectacle.
Totality will start at 3:32 p.m. in Caribou and will last for about 2 minutes and 10 seconds. Goughan’s Farm is a fantastic place to visit here, with several family-friendly activities to experience.
Before you leave, consider venturing to Limestone Maine to explore the 13 miles of foot trails and more at the Aroostook National Wildlife Refuge. You could even watch the eclipse here, which will begin at 3:32 p.m. and last for 2 minutes and 8 seconds.
Why Is the 2024 Total Solar Eclipse a Big Deal?
The United States had a total solar eclipse on Aug. 21, 2017, so why is the 2024 total solar eclipse so special? One reason is that total solar eclipses don’t typically occur this close together or pass over so many regions and states.
Before the 2017 eclipse, the last coast-to-coast eclipse was on June 8, 1918. After 2024, the next coast-to-coast eclipse won’t be until Aug. 12, 2045.
Another reason is that the 2024 eclipse will pass over 13 states — entering from South Texas and exiting from Aroostook County Maine. It will give people in different states than the 2017 eclipse the opportunity to see this celestial spectacle.
With that path, many more large cities will be graced with totality, which will also last longer — up to 4 minutes and 27 seconds, nearly double that of the 2017 eclipse. In most cities, the eclipse will last from 3.5 to 4 minutes.
On top of that, the path of totality for the 2024 total solar eclipse will pass through three countries — Mexico, the United States, and Canada — spending the longest amount of time over our country.
What Can You Expect During the Total Solar Eclipse?
When you’re watching the 2024 total solar eclipse, you will see several stages. Here’s an overview of each so that you know what to expect.
You’ll actually be able to see the moon slowly passing between the Earth and sun. When the moon first crosses in front of the sun, this moment is called “first contact.” Then, you’ll begin to see a partial eclipse, and this phase will last about 70 to 80 minutes.
Shadow Bands & Baily’s Beads
Just before and after totality, you’ll see rapidly moving long, dark bands on the ground and the sides of buildings.
The turbulent cells in the Earth’s upper atmosphere distort the light from the sun — much like how it distorts light from stars, making them look as though they are twinkling. These shadow bands can be faint to see and hard to capture with a camera, though.
At about the same time, you will also see points of shining light around the edges of the moon. These Baily’s Beads are light rays passing through the valleys on the horizon of the moon. They are so short-lived that you’ll miss them if you look away.
As the Baily’s Beads start disappearing, only one bright spot will be visible along the edge of the moon. This diamond ring means that totality is just moments away.
When the moon is completely in front of the sun, its light will be totally blocked from view, and the sky will darken as if it’s dawn or dusk. This point of totality is also called ” second contact.” The closer you are to the center of the path of totality, the longer this phase will last.
During totality, you may see the chromosphere and corona. The chromosphere is a section of the solar atmosphere, and it appears as a thin, pink circle around the moon. The corona is the outer solar atmosphere, and it appears as white streams of light.
After totality, the sky will brighten again as the phases of the eclipse recur in reverse. This moment is also referred to as “third contact.”
You will see the diamond ring, then the Baily’s Beads and shadow bands, and then another partial eclipse as the moon continues its orbit. The moment that the moon no longer blocks any of the sun is referred to as “fourth contact.”
How Do You Watch a Solar Eclipse Safely?
You likely know that sunlight is damaging to your eyes, which is why you should never look directly at the sun — even with sunglasses on. That’s why it’s so important to wear special protection while viewing a solar eclipse of any kind.
NOTE: Only lunar eclipses are safe to view with the naked eye and through binoculars or a telescope.
About Eye Damage
The cones and rods in the human retina are super light sensitive. During daylight, the iris contracts so that only a sample of light can pass through the eye lens to reach the retina. However, it only takes a thin sliver of sunlight to damage the eye if you look directly at it.
Looking directly at the sun can cause the appearance of dark or yellow spots in your vision, blurry vision, or even loss of vision in the fovea — the center of the eye.
It can only take about 100 seconds to permanently damage the retina, but it could happen quicker depending on sunlight intensity and other factors. Since there are no pain receptors in the retina, the damage can occur without you even realizing it.
Eye Safety Guidelines
To watch the various phases of the 2024 total solar eclipse without damaging your eyes, you have to wear ISO-certified glasses. ISO stands for International Standards Organization — a global organization that publishes detailed safety standards for many things, including eclipse-safe lens filters.
Even with ISO-certified glasses, you don’t want to look at the eclipse before and after totality for too long. The reason is that the sun’s infrared heat can warm your eye, dangerously overheating the fluids and tissues in your eye. To prevent that, look away from the eclipse every now and then to let your eyes cool off.
During the totality phase, though, it’s safe to remove your protective glasses because there’s no direct sunlight to damage your retina. Just make sure that you put the glasses back on before the totality phase ends.
If you want to capture photos or videos of every phase of the 2024 total solar eclipse, you must equip your camera with a special-purpose solar filter. Make sure that it fits snugly over the front of the camera lens. It’s only safe to remove this filter during totality.
Skin Safety Guidelines
Protecting your skin might be an afterthought because you’re going to view an eclipse, but you should protect it just like you do your eyes because you’ll be in direct sunlight for the majority of the event. Remember to wear sunblock, protective clothing, and a hat if necessary.
Does the Weather Affect the Visibility of a Solar Eclipse?
Yes, the only thing that can completely ruin the experience of a 2024 total solar eclipse is bad weather. You won’t be able to see anything if it’s too cloudy.
Unfortunately, meteorologists can only do so much to predict the weather. For that reason, it’s beneficial to have a backup plan — such as a second destination that you can reach in time for the eclipse if your first chosen location is a bust.
Maine Weather During the 2024 Eclipse
Understanding the weather in Maine can help you plan your visit to watch the 2024 eclipse. For instance, the western mountain areas tend to have more clouds. Mountains across the state can also create occasional waves of clouds that spread over the central and eastern regions.
To avoid missing the eclipse because of cloud cover, you could stay in a central location in Maine and choose your viewing location the evening or morning before the eclipse.
Since the 2024 total solar eclipse will be in early April, make sure that you pack warm too. Temperatures average a low of 27 degrees and a high of 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
How an Eclipse Effects the Weather
Along with the weather being able to put a damper on seeing the eclipse, the eclipse itself may have four effects on the weather. With the sun’s light blocked from reaching the Earth during the total solar eclipse, the temperature can fall as much as 15 degrees Fahrenheit.
As the temperature drops, shallow clouds may dissipate because they require heat and moisture to sustain themselves — while deeper storm clouds will be affected less. The lower temperature can also cause the atmosphere to shrink and stabilize, which slows down winds.
In locations that are dry and warm, humidity can rise by 20% or more. Smaller differences can occur in already humid climates.
What Are the Types of Eclipses?
There are more than just partial and total eclipses, and there are even multiple types of lunar eclipses. On top of that, planetary transits can be seen from time to time. Here’s an overview of each of these cosmic events.
A solar eclipse occurs when the moon’s orbit moves in between the sun and Earth. Depending on the position of the moon in relation to distance from the sun and planet, you’ll see a total, annular, partial, or hybrid solar eclipse.
Total Solar Eclipse
When the moon is close enough to the Earth, it becomes the same angular size as the sun. That’s possible because the sun is about 400 times wider than the moon but about 400 times the distance from Earth.
As a result, the moon can completely block the sun when it passes between the Earth and sun.
Annular Solar Eclipse
Since the orbit of the moon around Earth isn’t perfectly circular, it appears smaller than the sun when it passes between the sun and Earth at its farthest point from our planet. This position creates an annular eclipse, which appears as a ring of light around the moon.
Partial Solar Eclipse
When the moon passes between the sun and Earth but isn’t perfectly lined up, it only partially blocks the sun. This creates a crescent shape in the sky and a penumbra (lighter, outer) shadow on part of the planet. Technically, every solar eclipse is a partial eclipse from certain perspectives.
Hybrid Solar Eclipse
Since the surface of the Earth is curved, it’s possible for a solar eclipse to shift between total and annular as the moon moves between the planet and sun. This hybrid eclipse is the rarest type.
A lunar eclipse happens when the moon is on the opposite side of Earth from the sun. As a result, the shadow of Earth falls over the moon. You can see this type of eclipse from anywhere, and it can last for more than an hour.
Total Lunar Eclipse
When the moon is totally covered in the Earth’s shadow, it creates a total lunar eclipse. Because of how the sun’s light bends around the planet’s surface, the moon appears red instead of black.
Partial Lunar Eclipse
When the Earth’s shadow only covers part of the moon, it creates a partial lunar eclipse. Like with the total lunar eclipse, the portion of the moon that is covered appears red.
Penumbral Lunar Eclipse
The umbra is the darkest, central part of the Earth’s shadow created by the sun, while the penumbra is the lighter, outer part of the shadow. During a penumbral lunar eclipse, the moon is only touched by the Earth’s penumbra. Rather than turning the moon red, it only dims the moon’s appearance.
In addition to solar and lunar eclipses, we can see planetary transits. These occur when Mercury or Venus pass between Earth and the sun, so they appear as tiny black dots to us. They can be seen anywhere during the daytime and for up to several hours.
In a way, planetary transits are like miniature solar eclipses, but they are much rarer. Mercury transits only occur in May or November about 13 times per century, while Venus transits only occur in June or December twice within eight years of each other with 100-plus years in between each pair.
What Is the History of Lunar & Solar Eclipses?
The Earth, moon, and sun have been aligning to create eclipses since before humans existed. However, the earliest record of an eclipse is Nov. 30, 3340 B.C. on a series of circular stone carvings at the Loughcrew Megalithic Monument in Meath Ireland.
Cultures across the globe keep records of total solar eclipses and study them. Plus, there are tons of legends and lore surrounding these celestial events.
Why Scientists Study Eclipses
NASA scientists use historic eclipse records to discover new things about the moon, sun, Earth, and space in general. For instance, they used the first Chinese records to conclude that the Earth’s rotation has slowed (though only slightly) in the past 3,200 years.
Scientists study new eclipses to answer fundamental questions about our solar system, such as the solar wind that can affect humans and technology. They can learn more about the Earth’s atmosphere too. Other data that they collect is only available during a total solar eclipse.
Legends, Lore, & Superstitions
Over the centuries, people have had various reactions to and interpretations of solar eclipses. Many of these are based on fear.
For instance, the ancient Chinese believed it to be a “heavenly dog” devouring the sun and would beat on pots and drums to scare it off. It wasn’t the only culture to believe that a supernatural beast was devouring the sun, though:
- The ancient Vietnamese thought it was a giant frog.
- The Vikings believed it was a wolf.
- Hindu mythology thought it was a demon’s severed head.
- Korean folklore believed it was mythical dogs.
- California Pomo Tribes thought it was a bear.
These aren’t the only fear-related legends and lore surrounding total solar eclipses. The Japanese believed that poison would fall from the sky, so they would cover their water wells. Meanwhile, Transylvanians thought eclipses would bring plagues.
On top of that, some cultures still believe that eclipses cause pregnancy issues — birthmarks, blindness, and cleft lips. It’s believed that the Aztecs started these superstitions because they thought that the supernatural beast biting the sun would also bite the baby of a pregnant mother who watched the event.
Aside from fear, there are some happier, more uplifting legends and lore regarding solar eclipses. Some people in Italy think that planting flowers during an eclipse will result in more vibrant blooms.
Also, the Australian Aborigines, Germans, Native Americans, Tahitians, and West Africans interpreted eclipses as romantic events, bringing the sun and moon together as long-lost lovers. Meanwhile, some Native American Tribes believed that an eclipse was simply nature “checking in” with Earth.
Total solar eclipses have appeared in all types of media — from books to television. For example, there has been an eclipse in “The Simpsons,” Mark Twain’s “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court,” Stephen King’s “Dolores Claiborne,” and “Little Shop of Horrors.”
Eclipses have been featured in music as well, such as Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart” and Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain.” Additionally, the first commercial eclipse cruise was in 1972, and the first commercial eclipse flight was in 1974.
Plan Your Maine Getaway to See the 2024 Total Solar Eclipse
Are you excited to see the 2024 total solar eclipse in Maine? Start planning your cosmic getaway today for the experience of a lifetime!