Millions of Americans live in the path of 2024’s solar eclipse. See where to watch

(CNN, Matt Stiles, Kenneth Uzquiano, Ashley Strickland, and Will Mullery) — One of the year’s most anticipated celestial events — a total solar eclipse — will put on a dramatic show April 8 as it crosses over Mexico, the United States and Canada.

A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between Earth and the sun, completely blocking the sun’s face and causing the golden orb to temporarily disappear from view. The phenomenon has inspired myths and folklore for millennia.

The event will be visible to millions — including 32 million people in the US alone — who live along the route the moon’s shadow will travel during the eclipse, known as the path of totality. For sky-gazers in the areas experiencing totality, the moon’s shadow will completely cover the sun. Those along the very center line of the path will see an eclipse that lasts between 3 ½ and 4 minutes, according to NASA.

The total duration for all phases of the eclipse, however, lasts for hours. Since the moon doesn’t just suddenly appear between Earth and the sun, the event begins with a partial eclipse. The moon’s shadow will slowly move across the sun’s face during the approach to totality, causing the sun to appear like a sharpening crescent. Depending on your location, the partial eclipse can last between 70 to 80 minutes, according to NASA.

The eclipse will first appear over the South Pacific Ocean and begin its journey across North America. Mexico’s Pacific coast is the first point of totality on the path, expected at 11:07 a.m. PT (2:07 p.m. ET) and the eclipse is expected to end on the Atlantic coast of Newfoundland at 5:16 p.m. local time (3:46 p.m. ET).

During totality, the sky will darken as if it’s dusk or dawn. Depending on humidity and cloud cover, expect to feel a roughly 10-degree Fahrenheit (5-degree Celsius) drop in temperature when the sun disappears from view, according to NASA.

Look out for Baily’s beads just before and after the sun disappears. This scintillating phenomenon occurs when the sun’s rays shine around valleys on the lunar horizon, creating glowing drops of light around the moon.

The location that will experience the longest duration of totality is near Torreón, Mexico, where the peak of the eclipse will last 4 minutes and 28 seconds. But you don’t have to be squarely in the path of this solar spectacle to witness some of its wonders.

Millions more outside of the path of totality, across an area that includes 49 US states, will see a partial solar eclipse, in which the moon blocks a portion of the sun and appears to take a crescent-shaped “bite” out of it.

And be sure to find a pair of certified ISO 12312-2 compliant eclipse glasses ahead of the big day to safely view every stage of the eclipse and enjoy the celestial show while you can. Another total solar eclipse won’t be visible across the contiguous US again until August 2044.

Click here to see how the eclipse will impact your location.