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Here's what you need to know about the eclipse, even in Idaho

During the solar eclipse on April 8, totality will be visible from several major cities, including Dallas, Indianapolis, Cleveland and Buffalo; but not Boise.
Iryna Denysova
Iryna Denysova, 123rf
During the solar eclipse on April 8, totality will be visible from several major cities, including Dallas, Indianapolis, Cleveland and Buffalo; but not Boise.

Millions of North Americans are getting increasingly excited for the April 8 solar eclipse, when the so-called “path of totality” will stretch across 15 states before continuing up to eastern Canada.

And even though Idaho is nowhere near that path of totality, that doesn’t mean Idahoans won’t see some of that wonder. More importantly, it means that eye protection will be strongly suggested.

“We will see, at maximum, about one quarter of the sun being blocked by the moon,” said astronomer Dr. Irwin Horowitz. “And again, it should be noted that if you are observing the eclipse at any point, you always want to make sure you have proper eye protection.”

In anticipation of the big sky show, Horowitz visits with Morning Edition host George Prentice to talk about the eclipse, plus a few more surprises that Idahoans might want to check out in the stars.

A map showing the path of the total solar eclipse across the United States.
On Monday, April 8, a total solar eclipse will be visible across the United States. We have some tips on how to watch it safely – even the partial eclipse we'll see here in Idaho.

Read the full transcript below:

GEORGE PRENTICE: It's Morning Edition. Good morning, I'm George Prentice. Well, it is nearly time for much of North America to look to the skies. And of course, we're talking about the big eclipse. So, one of our favorites is back on the broadcast this morning. Dr. Irwin Horowitz, professor and astronomer extraordinaire. Dr. Horowitz, good morning.

DR. IRWIN HOROWITZ: Good morning. George.

PRENTICE: Okay, so give us the 101. What are the specifics? What type of eclipse is this and what will be happening?

HOROWITZ: So this will be a total solar eclipse over a relatively narrow range that cuts across northern Mexico and then across much of the central and northeastern parts of the United States, ending up heading off the Canadian coast into the Atlantic Ocean.

PRENTICE: Specifically, what is happening? What is blocking what?

HOROWITZ: The moon orbits around the Earth every month, and on rare occasions, as it does so, it will pass directly between the Earth and the sun. And when that happens, you get an eclipse. And if it happens to be directly in front of the sun, you'll get a total solar eclipse. So long as the size of the moon is bigger than that of the sun in the sky.

PRENTICE: I've seen a few maps, so we're talking about coming up from the US Mexico border, right? Where does it head from there?

HOROWITZ: The eclipse path first touches land somewhere around, I believe, Acapulco, Mexico. And it will cut across much of northern Mexico and cut into South Texas. When it crosses into the United States, it will pass through much of eastern Texas and then through states like Arkansas, parts of Missouri and Illinois, and then across Indiana and Ohio, and then up into the northeast, sort of following along the eastern Great Lakes with northwest Pennsylvania and northern New York, and then sort of skirt the US Canadian border, uh, between states like Vermont and New Hampshire before heading out across the maritime provinces of Canada.

PRENTICE: Folks that are in any of those communities, they'll get a pretty good show. Will we see any piece of this eclipse?

HOROWITZ: Here in the Boise, Idaho area? We will see, at maximum, about one quarter of the sun being blocked by the moon. And again, it should be noted that if you are observing the eclipse at any point, you always want to make sure you have proper eye protection.

PRENTICE: Good to know. So even in the partial viewing. Well, what do we want?

HOROWITZ: Well, the eclipse glasses that have been fairly popular the last several years should still be viable as long as they were functioning in 2017 for the other eclipse that we had. You do want to make sure there are no pinholes or any sort of punctures in those eclipse glasses, but if they are still nice and solid, they should do the job. Other types of items you can use include number 14 welder's glasses, as well as some specifically designed solar filters that you might use for photographic or telescopic equipment.

PRENTICE: Are you aware of... I guess the phrase should be "eclipse travelers?" I'm assuming more than a few people will try to find a location and experience this.

HOROWITZ: It is a little bit of a haul from Idaho to get to that region. But I actually just spoke with a student I'm tutoring this morning who indicated that plans to go to Austin, Texas and be there for the eclipse on the following Monday, uh, weather permitting, that's always the big unknown until the last minute with these things, as long as the skies are clear or the region towards the sun is clear during the eclipse, you'll definitely be able to see it.

PRENTICE: One of the benefits of age is being able to see 2 or 3 of these in your lifetime, and it is worth sharing with our listeners. It is something you do not want to miss if you have the opportunity.

PRENTICE: Exactly. I've had the opportunity to see two total eclipses in my life, one of which was back in the summer of 1991. I was in the southern tip of Baja, and that was an eclipse where the totality lasted nearly seven minutes. And then, of course, the other one was the one in 2017 that we had that passed through Idaho. I was up in Cascade for that one.

PRENTICE: And that was a really big deal if anyone was anywhere around here. Dr. Horowitz, what's in your lens lately? What are what might you be looking at?

HOROWITZ: Oh, some of the interesting objects that are visible in our night sky would be  the planet Jupiter is still reasonably well positioned in the western sky after sundown, and it's very easy to spot if you have nice clear skies. It's the only really bright object over there. But actually, in the vicinity of Jupiter, there is a comet that's becoming more visible. You may want to use binoculars to observe it, and don't do this until after sundown, but sort of below and to the right of Jupiter, there's a line of objects starting with the Andromeda Galaxy. And if you go from there and start sort of scanning to your left, uh, you'll see a couple of reasonably bright stars. And then the comet is relatively close to that second bright star.

PRENTICE: And in what part of the sky should we be looking?

HOROWITZ: It'll be in the west northwest, that region after sundown. Probably a good time is about 930 in the evening. It'll be pretty low. Not immediately on the horizon, but not that much above the horizon in the western sky.

PRENTICE: By the way, for our listeners, please look up the Boise Astronomical Society. What a wonderful group of enthusiasts.

HOROWITZ: George, I do have one thing to announce: with regards to the Boise Astronomical Society, back in January, we had to cancel our annual.” I got a new telescope for Christmas. So now what do I do?” event because we had a bad snowstorm back at that time, so we've rescheduled that for April. And that'll be on Thursday, April 18th at 7 p.m. at the Anser Charter School in Garden City.

PRENTICE: I love this. This is the. "Hey, I just got a telescope for Christmas" event. Give us that date one more time.

HOROWITZ: That'll be Thursday, April 18th.

PRENTICE: And he is Dr. Irwin Horowitz, astronomer extraordinaire and always a welcome guest to our broadcast. Dr. Horowitz, thanks for giving us some time.

HOROWITZ: Always a pleasure, George. Thank you very much.

Find reporter George Prentice on Twitter @georgepren

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