Millions of people began to watch, on Monday, April 8, as the yellow orb of the Sun was nibbled by the shadow of the Moon, then completely obscured for a few minutes. A rare total solar eclipse, which always arouses wonder, will plunge more than thirty million people into darkness in broad daylight, according to NASA, in North America.

On its path, which will sweep after the beaches of Mexico the plains of Texas, the State of New York and Montreal, the tourists who have come for the occasion attend the event, equipped with special glasses. A safety instruction hammered out for weeks by the American authorities, to prevent the risk of serious damage to the eyes.

“Eclipses have a special power. They touch people, who feel a kind of reverence for the beauty of our universe,” notes Bill Nelson, the head of NASA, who broadcasts a three-hour live video, from several locations, with telescope images and comments of experts.

Hotels full, schools closed

Total eclipses only occur when the Moon is placed exactly between the Earth and the Sun and this star, 400 times smaller than the Sun, is also exactly 400 times closer to the Earth, therefore at the right distance to temporarily block the light of our star in broad daylight. An event that will not be visible again from the United States before 2044.

In Mazatlan, a city on the Mexican coast among the first places from which the eclipse can be observed from noon local time (8 p.m. Paris time), the seaside was teeming with tourists several hours before the eclipse. eclipse. Street parties are planned. All along the route, many hotels have been fully booked for months for the occasion, and monstrous traffic jams are expected. Many schools will be closed or will allow students to leave early.

Among the emblematic places where the eclipse will be visible are Niagara Falls, where the spectacle promises to be grandiose. On the Canadian side, the region has even declared a “state of emergency” to better cope with the influx of visitors. The eclipse will also be admired from the air: some airlines have planned flights along the path of darkness, for which tickets have been snapped up. However, the weather could spoil the party in certain regions.

Small rockets launched

The event is also scientific. Three small sounding rockets will have been launched by NASA before, during and just after the eclipse, from Virginia, in the east of the country. The goal is to measure changes caused by darkness in the upper part of the Earth’s atmosphere.

The solar corona, the outer layer of the Sun’s atmosphere, becomes particularly clearly visible during an eclipse. It will be observed carefully: this is where solar flares occur, but our star is currently close to its peak of activity (unlike in 2017).

The eclipse may also cause unusual behavior in animals, sensitive to changes in light and temperature.