Are You Ready for the Solar Eclipse “Double-Header?”

The next year offers the highly unusual opportunity to see two eclipses of the Sun in North America – a solar eclipse “Double Header.” An annular (ring of fire) eclipse occurs on October 14, 2023, followed by a total eclipse on April 8, 2024.

Annular Eclipse Photo of the sun in an orange sky

  Total Eclipse of sun on dark background of sky





Annular Eclipse Photo by Kevin Baird                                                      Total Eclipse Photo by Cary Sneider

Everyone in North America (some 500 million people) will see at least a partial eclipse of the Sun each time, while the people located in the narrow path on the following maps with see the annular or total eclipse.

map of the U.S. with a trajectory path pointing from Oregon to southern Texas and Mexico

October 14, 2023: Partial eclipse visible everywhere in North America, with annular eclipse observed along narrow path

Map of the U.S. with trajectory arrow pointing from Texas to the Northeast. April 8, 2024: Partial eclipse visible everywhere in North America, with total eclipse observed along narrow path Eclipse Maps by Fred Espenak, Eclipsewise.com

We will not have the opportunity to see another total eclipse cross the U.S. until 2045, so the coming year is the perfect opportunity to use these beautiful celestial events as a way to inspire interest in science by everyone, and as teachable moments in the classroom. It’s the perfect time to explore key science concepts, including what causes the phases of the Moon and why we have both solar and lunar eclipses.

Key to making the eclipses a successful learning experience is knowing how to observe them safely. IMPORTANT SAFETY NOTE: You cannot look directly at the partially eclipsed or annular eclipse without using special viewing filters (glasses) or observing the eclipse indirectly.

One of our favorite ways to view a solar eclipse is to use something found in most homes - a colander for rinsing pasta or salad. To use it during the eclipse, stand with your back to the Sun and hold the colander so that the Sun’s light shines through it onto the ground or a wall. Inside the colander’s shadow there will be many tiny images of the eclipsed Sun.

Shadow of a hand holding a colander NASA Image by Joy Ng

Another easy way to observe the eclipses indirectly is by making a simple pinhole projector, as shown in the next two drawings.

From Solar Eclipse Activities for Libraries (SEAL) Guide, written by the authors of this article​an animation of black shoebox with aluminum foil on the bottom left corner and paper on the inside to view the solar eclipse From Solar Science, written by the authors of this article

You can also view the eclipse by projecting an image of the Sun through binoculars. This will allow you to see a larger image, and you and your children will likely see some of the sunspots on the Sun, which will be more plentiful at the time of these eclipses.  All these methods are explained in more detail in the NSTA Solar Eclipse Guide for Educators.

Cartoon of a man in a green shirt using a telescope and a light ray showing on a clipboard

The eclipses provide a wonderful, free laboratory for exploring the predictable way nature’s cycles work. May you have clear skies to experience the awe-inspiring solar eclipse “double header.”

About the Author

Dennis Schatz & Andrew Fraknoi
Dennis Schatz (Institute for Learning Innovation and Past President of the National Science Teaching Association – NSTA) Andrew Fraknoi (Fromm Institute, U. of San Francisco)

Dennis Schatz works at the Institute for Learning Innovation and is Past President of the 
National Science Teaching Association 
Andrew Fraknoi teaches astronomy at the Fromm Institute of the University of San Francisco, and is the lead author of OpenStax Astronomy¸a free online, introductory textbook.
They are both leaders in the Solar Eclipse Task Force of the American Astronomical Society and in the project to distribute 5 million safe-viewing glasses (and information) for the upcoming eclipses through 10,000 public libraries, funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.