Fill in the blank: total eclipse of the _______.
If you said “heart,” congratulations! You survived the 80s! However, what we were looking for in this instance was the word “sun.” You see, while the entire world knows that the stars at night are big and bright deep in the heart of Texas, we're going to take a moment to discuss something spectacular up in the Hill Country Solar Eclipse skies that will occur during broad daylight—or at least, it will begin and end with broad daylight.
Confused yet? Don't be. This is just our fancy way of saying a spectacular astronomical event will be taking place directly over the Hill Country. The next rare full solar eclipse will be visible over the region on April 8, 2024. This is really a very big deal! The next total solar eclipse that can be observed over central Texas won't appear again until well into the 23rd century.
The fact that full solar eclipses take place at all is due to our unique location in the Solar System. We're perfectly positioned so that, on rare occasion, our moon's path directly crosses that of the sun so the smaller celestial body completely covers the disc of our home star, at least from our point of view here on the ground. That takes some doing, considering it's the equivalent of a child's toy marble covering a sphere almost 40 feet in diameter. We in the Hill Country will be directly beneath the full totality of the 2024 eclipse, which means day will magically turn nearly to night for a few hypnotizing minutes.
In the scientific enlightenment of our day and age, we're able to appreciate a full solar eclipse without the superstition and outright fear our ancestors often experienced. Back in the day, for one thing, there was no way to accurately predict when eclipses would occur. That means they caught people by surprise, and to put it bluntly, folks fully freaked out. Those under the moon's shadow were considered to be cursed, and royal advisors and astronomers who failed to warn the populace of the event were harshly punished, and often executed. For a few terrifying moments, many were convinced the sun would never return. Confusion reigned, and after the sun returned, the rattled populations scrambled to find reasons—and people to blame—for the momentary darkness.
Our Hill Country eclipse on April 8, 2024, thankfully, will come with no accompanying panic and drama. This astronomical event will be a rare full solar eclipse, where the moon appears large enough from the earth's perspective to completely cover the sun. (This is in comparison to an “annular” solar eclipse, where the moon appears slightly smaller, and a ring of light is visible even when the moon is directly in front of the sun.) At approximately 12:17 PM, the moon will start to occult, or cover, the sun, and will slowly track over it until covering the star completely, at 1:37 PM. After a brief few minutes of “totality” (where the moon covers the sun entirely), it will then move away slowly, and the last of the moon covering any part of the sun at all will occur at 2:58 PM. The full duration of the eclipse (from the moon first obscuring a tiny sliver of the sun until it departs on the other side) will be about two hours and 40 seconds.
The solar eclipse of 2024 schedule in the above paragraph is specifically calculated for Austin, which is just northeast of the southern Hill Country. Since the path of totality on the ground is a very narrow one, a shift in location of just a handful of miles can alter the schedule of totality and duration. With that important distinction in mind, here's a list of Hill Country towns that will fall under that path of totality, with specific times of totality onset, and the full period of totality duration:
Bandera: Totality begins at 1:31:51 PM; duration of totality 4 minutes, 4 seconds
Boerne: Totality begins at 1:32:48 PM; duration of totality 3 minutes, 34 seconds
Castroville: Totality begins at 1:32:22 PM; duration of totality 2 minutes, 26 seconds
Comfort: Totality begins at 1:32:30 PM; duration of totality 4 minutes, 11 seconds
Concan: Totality begins at 1:30:13 PM; duration of totality 4 minutes, 24 seconds
D’Hanis: Totality begins at 1:31:02 PM; duration of totality 3 minutes, 39 seconds
Fredericksburg: Totality begins at 1:32:58 PM, duration of totality 4 minutes, 24 seconds
Helotes: Totality begins at 1:32:56 PM, duration of totality 2 minutes, 41 seconds
Hondo: Totality begins at 1:31:26 PM, duration of totality 3 minutes, 22 seconds
Kerrville: Totality begins at 1:32:07 PM; duration of totality 4 minutes, 24 seconds
Lakehills: Totality begins at 1:32:07 PM; duration of totality 3 minutes, 35 seconds
Leakey: Totality begins at 1:30:32 PM; duration of totality 4 minutes, 25 seconds
Medina: Totality begins at 1:31:34 PM; duration of totality 4 minutes, 20 seconds
Pipe Creek: Totality begins at 1:32:12 PM; duration of totality 3 minutes, 50 seconds
Tarpley: Totality begins at 1:31:19 PM; duration of totality 4 minutes, 13 seconds
Utopia: Totality begins at 1:30:45 PM; duration of totality 4 minutes, 23 seconds
Vanderpool: Totality begins at 1:30:54 PM; duration of totality 4 minutes, 26 seconds
(All times listed are in the CDT (local) time zone. Data supplied by Eclipse2024.org.)
The moon's shadow being cast on the ground happens only over a slim path, but luckily, the majority of our Hill Country region will be along that path, offering a perfect view. The 2024 solar eclipse will also take place in the heart of spring among the breathtaking views of the Texas Hill Country. It's a great time to visit this region, with many of the brilliant colors of wildflowers in bloom!
TIPS FOR VIEWING THE HILL COUNTRY ECLIPSE
First and foremost, DO NOT LOOK DIRECTLY AT THE SUN, during an eclipse or at any other time. The brightness and concentrated radiation are simply too much for your eyes to take, and can result in permanent damage to your retinas. This warning applies to cameras (including the one on your phone), binoculars, and telescopes, too; their lenses and other components can be damaged by the sun, as well. Glasses and special photographic solar filters are made so viewing and picture taking can be done safely, and they should be in good condition; scratched or damaged eclipse glasses or filters shouldn't be used. Dark sunglasses won't work for this, by the way, they just don't offer enough protection. Make sure what you get is specifically manufactured for the purpose of eclipse viewing.
Indirect viewing through a pinhole projector is a much safer way to observe the 2024 eclipse—and it's simple, too. All you need to do is take any piece of stiff cardboard, such as poster board or a section of a box. Trace a circle on the cardboard, using a glass or similar round object as a template, and carefully cut the circle out. In a pinch, even a paper-punch hole in an index card will work. Hold this simple viewer parallel to a flat and light-colored surface, such as a sidewalk or patio. As the eclipse gets underway, your viewer will project an image of the sun as the moon slowly covers its disc. This is not only a safe way to enjoy the Hill Country eclipse, but will give the young ones a project beforehand; they love taking an active part in the proceedings!
This solar eclipse of 2024 will take place during the early afternoon over the Hill Country, which means the sun will be elevated high in the sky. For optimal viewing, though, you should find a spot out in the open which doesn't have any obstructions. Trees and tall structures like buildings could be located in spots that could ruin your viewing experience. Plan ahead so that won't happen!
If you've seen televised coverage of a full solar eclipse before, you know that professional and amateur astronomers alike flock in from all over to position themselves under the path of totality. Our beautiful Hill Country will be a bullseye for this event, and it's never too soon to plan ahead! At Backroads Reservations, we invite our guests to join us for the eclipse, and to enjoy it in a classy, comfortable, and affordable vacation rental. Don't watch this once-in-a-lifetime event on TV; join us here in person for an experience you'll treasure for years to come!
We’re also working with local property owners to allocate a large number of RV spots for eclipse viewing, so as the date of the 2024 Hill Country eclipse draws closer, watch this space for more information!