April 21, 2024

The moon will completely block the face of the sun on Monday and for a few minutes people in the US, Mexico and Canada will experience a total solar eclipse.

The alignment between the sun and the moon must be precise and this gives rise to a narrow path of totality – about 71 miles (115 km) across – from which the total eclipse can be seen.

Some schools close for the day with many places holding events in local parks and outdoor spaces. Others plan to travel to more remote locations to watch the solar event unfold.

In Salt Lake City, Utah, Angela Matthes, 37, admits her family’s eclipse trip to a tiger reserve was a “lucky find.” Traveling with her husband, Ruedigar, and their four-year-old twins, they can’t wait to start their “epic” stay at the Crown Ridge Tiger Reserve in Ste Genevieve, Missouri.

Because Matthes and her husband work full time, they only decided to make a trip in January when most places were “overbooked”.

“With young twins, our planning is often a little rushed, or non-existent,” says Matthes, who is the chief financial officer of a nonprofit organization.

Angela Matthes with her husband and four-year-old twins. Photo: Angela Matthes/Guardian Community

It won’t be the first time they’ve seen an eclipse – in 2023 they saw an annular or ‘ring of fire’ eclipse in Cuba, New Mexico, during a “chance” trip with extended family.

Staying at the tiger reserve is the twins’ “ultimate dream holiday” and Matthes hopes it will be a “formative memory” for them. “The next one in the contiguous US is not until 2044 when they will be big.

“Sharing moments of awe and watching them experience awe and wonder is a great source of joy. These are moments I wouldn’t trade for anything.”

John Stewart, of Olathe, Kansas, watched the last eclipse in Casper, Wyoming, in 2017 and this time plans to drive to Arkansas Tech University to see the event as a family “for the last time” since his children are almost is fully adult.

He said: “We leave very early in the morning and hopefully get home for school before midnight on Tuesday. It’s an incredible and disturbing experience.”

Stewart, who will be watching the event with his children William (17) and Morgan (15), added: “They’re really excited to go and hopefully not just because they’ll miss a day of school. They remember 2017 but are excited to see it as teenagers. My son takes his new camera and hopes to get pictures for the school yearbook.

John Stewart and family. Photo: John Stewart/Guardian Community

“Growing up, we never had the chance. I can’t say that I ever really considered it until 2017. It’s great that I can share my love of science and astronomy with them.

“They are both in the astronomy class and excited to be able to share what they are seeing.”

For Annie Tomlin, a writer from Connecticut, the eclipse will not only be a special experience to share with her two sons, ages three and six, but an educational opportunity.

“They are very excited,” she said. “I explained the mechanics of an eclipse using a light bulb to represent the sun and moving plates around to represent the moon and Earth. Our three year old can’t get enough of it. They also look forward to wearing eclipse glasses.

“My six-year-old son wants to be a scientist when he grows up, and he’s been interested in the solar system since he was three. He can talk at length about gibbous moons and solar flares. Now he’s interested in learning about eclipses, and he’s been asking questions I don’t know the answers to – we’re both learning something.”

After postponing their original plans to drive to Burlington, Vermont due to eye-popping hotel prices, the family is now driving to the southern part of the state.

Annie Tomlin and son. Photo: Annie Tomlin/Guardian Community

She added: “I feel lucky that we can experience this eclipse together. Of course, I hope the kids have a good time, and I hope it creates a sense of wonder for them.

“My husband and I look forward to the adventure of it all, but our excitement is also tinged with bittersweetness. The total eclipse only lasts a few minutes, so you must be fully present.

“Also, it’s a reminder for us to appreciate the time we have with our boys, blackout or no blackout, because they’ll be grown before we know it.”

Near Annapolis, Maryland, physicist Patrick O’Shea thinks his eclipse trip to Austin, Texas, to see Vampire Weekend live will be “insane.”

After attending a wedding in Houston on Saturday, O’Shea and his wife, Miriam, will fly the next day to meet their son Ronan, who is at the University of Texas at Austin, before attending the outdoor concert on Monday.

“It all came together,” said O’Shea, 66, who “always wanted” to see an eclipse but never had. “One of Austin’s nicknames is bat city and when Ronan suggested seeing Vampire Weekend, we thought it would be a perfect alignment.” As a physicist, he will also try some “little experiments” during the eclipse related to the polarization of light.

O’Shea expects there will be “a lot of emotions and complexity to juggle” when the eclipse occurs. “I can be passionate as a scientist, but passionate as a person. It’s great to do these things with family and Ronan will be able to tell his children and grandchildren about it.

“It is important for the generations that come after us.”

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