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Stateside Podcast: What to know about the total solar eclipse

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This year’s fabled total solar eclipse is predicted to be visible in parts of North America in less than two weeks. If you miss it, the next time a total solar eclipse is projected to be visible in the continental United States is not until August of 2044. So now is the time for prudence and planning!

Astronomer, artist, and night sky ambassador Dr. Tyler Nordgren joined Stateside to explain what we need to know about seeing this eclipse and to talk about his work.

Nordgren is a professional astronomer who has worked extensively with the National Park Service to make national parks an accessible place for public science and astronomy education. He also works as an artist, and is the author of “Sun Moon Earth: The History of Solar Eclipses from Omens of Doom to Einstein and Exoplanets.”

Where can I see the eclipse?

“In the United States, it goes from Texas, through Oklahoma, Arkansas, southern Missouri, Illinois, Ohio, Indiana, and then out through New York, New Hampshire, Vermont to Maine,” Nordgren said. “So it's relatively narrow. It's only about 100 or so miles wide, but it extends for thousands of miles.”

For most people in Michigan, Ohio is the most accessible place to see the total eclipse. Nordgren recommended that if you’re heading south, to get to Toledo. He also said that looking eastward, the north shore of Lake Erie could be a good option to see the eclipse.

If you have the option of being flexible with your plans, Nordgren recommended deciding on where to see the eclipse about three days before the eclipse, as that is when weather models converge to predict where the clouds will be.

How should I protect my eyes?

Nordgren said that it is “crucial” for people to wear eclipse glasses from a reputable manufacturer with an ISO rating. The American Astronomical Society has tips on how to get verified eclipse glasses. Nordgren also said that if you are in the path of totality, you have to take the eclipse glasses off once the sun disappears through those glasses — otherwise you will not be able to see the fully eclipsed sun. It is safe to take them off during totality, as the light will only be as bright as the full moon.

What are some of the stories and myths behind eclipses?

Throughout history, people around the world have attached different meanings to solar eclipses.

“In Hindu astrology, for instance, Rahu was this giant, immortal, bodiless head that was angered at the sun and moon for tattling on him to the gods for having stolen the gods’ elixir of immortality. And so he would chase after the sun and moon and eat them,” Nordgren said. “If you made a loud enough noise, you might startle Rahu, and he would drop the sun from his mouth. And so your solar eclipse would only be a partial one.”

Nordgren said that in northern Europe, the eclipse was symbolic of Loki’s hunting dogs. In parts of America, he said it was believed to be a jaguar. In northern California, he said it was representative of a bear walking along the Milky Way.

Nordgren emphasized how understandable it is that cultures in history used these associations to make sense of what he considers to be “one of the most unsettling, multi-sensory, awe inspiring, unnatural natural phenomena you'll ever experience.” He noted that, for most of human history, people have not been able to predict or understand the science behind the sun being entirely or partially blocked from Earth.

“Some of these explanations, especially things like with Rahu or the bear, where it involves both the sun and the moon, begin to tie together those things that we actually do see that solar eclipses and lunar eclipses come in pairs,” Nordgren said. “So it's a way of making sense of the universe.”

Nordgren is also an acclaimed artist. For the 2017 eclipse, he designed 30 eclipse travel posters for communities and national parks in the path of totality. These posts were so well received that they are now being collected by the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. To hear more about his work as an artist and how that relates to his work in astronomy, listen to the Stateside podcast.


  • Dr. Tyler Nordgren, astronomer; artist; author; night sky ambassador

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Rachel Ishikawa joined Michigan Public in 2020 as a podcast producer. She produced Kids These Days, a limited-run series that launched in the summer of 2020.
Olivia Mouradian recently graduated from the University of Michigan and joined the Stateside team as an intern in May 2023.