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When to expect another solar eclipse after clouds covered parts of Alabama during April 8 celestial event

The moon partially covers the sun during a total solar eclipse, as seen from Eagle Pass, Texas, Monday, April 8, 2024. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Eric Gay/AP
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AP
The moon partially covers the sun during a total solar eclipse, as seen from Eagle Pass, Texas, Monday, April 8, 2024. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

A chilly, midday darkness fell across North America as a total solar eclipse raced across the continent. The April 8 spectacle was witnessed by millions of spectators in the U.S., Mexico and Canada.

It was North America's biggest eclipse crowd ever, thanks to the densely populated path. Almost everyone on continent could see at least a partial eclipse, weather permitting, including here in Alabama, which had reported cloud coverage.

Solar Eclipse 2024, Solar Eclipse, Quad, Students
Jonathan M. Norris/Jonathan M. Norris
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University of Alabama Photography
Solar Eclipse 2024, Solar Eclipse, Quad, Students

Before the rain came down in the Yellowhammer State, The University of Alabama’s department of physics and astronomy had heads turned upward at their solar eclipse viewing event. There, experts were available to offer insights about the eclipse, offer prime viewing tips and hand out glasses to attendees for safe viewing.

During Monday's full eclipse, the moon slipped right in front of the sun, entirely blocking it. The resulting twilight, with only the sun’s outer atmosphere or corona visible, was long enough for birds and other animals to fall silent, and for planets and stars to pop out.

It took just 1 hour, 40 minutes for the moon's shadow to race more than 4,000 miles (6,500 kilometers) across the continent. The path of totality — approximately 115 miles (185 kilometers) wide — encompassed several major cities.

The April 8 event was the North America's biggest eclipse audience ever, with a couple hundred million people living in or near the shadow’s path, plus scores of out-of-towners flocking in to see it. With the next coast-to-coast eclipse 21 years out, the pressure was on to catch this one.

The moon covers most of the the sun as it approaches the total solar eclipse, as seen from the summit of Saddleback Mountain, Monday, April 8, 2024, near Rangeley, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
Robert F. Bukaty/AP
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AP
The moon covers most of the the sun as it approaches the total solar eclipse, as seen from the summit of Saddleback Mountain, Monday, April 8, 2024, near Rangeley, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

For those who missed North America's total solar eclipse or those caught the eclipse bug, there are more chances to see the sun disappear.

Full solar eclipses happen about every year or two or three, due to a precise alignment of the sun, moon and Earth.

Solar Eclipse 2024, Solar Eclipse, Quad, Students
Jonathan M. Norris/Jonathan M. Norris
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University of Alabama Photography
Solar Eclipse 2024, Solar Eclipse, Quad, Students

The next total solar eclipse will be in 2026 and will pass over the northern fringes of Greenland, Iceland and Spain.

The next U.S. taste of totality comes in 2033 when an eclipse brushes Alaska and Russia. And in 2044, one will cross Greenland and western Canada, touching swaths of North Dakota and Montana.

An eclipse on the scale of Monday’s event won’t happen again until Aug. 12, 2045, though the U.S. will get a taste of totality before then. That eclipse will first greet viewers in Northern California, slicing through Utah, Colorado and Mississippi on its way to Cape Canaveral, Florida.

A partial lunar eclipse in September will be visible over Europe and much of Asia, Africa, North America and South America.

Several meteor showers and supermoons will also grace the skies through 2024, as they do every year. Space enthusiasts can also visit a local planetarium or science center.

Baillee Majors is the Morning Edition host and a reporter at Alabama Public Radio.
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