“Viewing eclipses can be habit forming!” NASA’s scientist, Brian Day, Deputy Staff Scientist at NASA Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute, believes and I have to agree with him. He’s viewed more than thirty eclipses and plans on many more. I witnessed the 2017 totality and it looks like I’m hooked as well.

Here’s a short video I did about the last experience when my family ventured to Oregon to track the solar eclipse path as it moved from west to east.

As celestial/terrestial experiences go, this has got to be the apex but there are several different kinds of eclipses. Day, illustrated: Total eclipse, as in 2017, in 2024, and the next arriving in 2026. Annular is when the moon is further from earth and the solar eclipse path allows us to see a fiery ring.

I wasn’t expecting to jump on the bandwagon. In fact, according to Vedic traditions and the meditation I practice, there are several reasons to avoid watching them. I wrote about that and how to counter the effects in an earlier post. That was of course long before I ran into the NASA team.

In 2017 my family began talking about tracking the solar eclipse path in its totality as soon as the lights came back on, so to speak. The feelings that emerged as the sun dimmed, birds fell silent, the people around us became mute or cheered or cried, and feeling as my heart shuddered in an odd trepidation was awe inspiring. We started to outline our itinerary carefully for 2024 right away.

US map showing the eclipse path and Airbnb rentals.

US map showing the eclipse path and Airbnb rentals.

First, we had to decide where was the best place for us on the solar eclipse path. The above map shows the shared rental choice that people across the United States made in 2024. Since we live in Southern California it seemed that Texas or Mexico might be easiest and Mazatlan, the first point on the continent to encounter the solar eclipse path, won out.

The Solar Eclipse Path Using Cross Border Express

First of all, it is easy to cross into the Mexico Border using the Cross Border Express bridge which takes you right into the Tijuana Airport. We could’ve flown from San Diego Airport but found that the best flight times for direct flights into Mazatlan were also cheapest from the other side of the border. These we booked in January for the April 8th eclipse and they were already filling up.

The CBX service can be booked online and there are several options for parking, from valet to self park, which cost about ten to thirty three dollars a day. If you don’t want to drive there are shuttles from the San Diego Airport and private carriers as well as ride-sharing options. Once inside the US center, you fill out customs documents at terminals, show your boarding pass and passport, then clear customs. It felt great to stretch my legs on the walk across the enclosed bridge. I loved piling my bags on the CBX carts for the stroll too.

The 2024 Solar Eclipse Path, NASA Style

After the family settled into our Airbnb, we visited the beach site where NASA scientists were setting up and I’m so glad we did this the day before the eclipse. After getting our visitor wristbands and having breakfast inside the luxurious Mayan Palace, we were invited to a talk by the NASA crew.

Brian Day, Deputy Staff Scientist at NASA Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute

Brian Day, Deputy Staff Scientist at NASA Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute

Brian Day has a great job that leads him to viewing solar eclipses around the world for NASA. In Mazatlan, the first landfall viewing event will have him and the team setting up on a grassy knoll next to the beach. As we settled into our seats for the talk, he handed out special viewing glasses and pinhole cards for watching, then talked about the eclipse timing for that location and different ways you can see the eclipse effects.

Three ways to see the solar eclipse effect safely without special glasses

Three ways to see the solar eclipse effect safely without special glasses. Photos: Brian Day

The three ways illustrated above, and edited from Day’s presentation photos, show shadows during a total eclipse. None of these require special glasses and will be visible before or after the totality.

Weather permitting this could be the most heavily viewed total solar eclipse in human history.
Brian Day, Deputy Staff Scientist at NASA Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute

The Main Event

I knew so little about how to watch the total eclipse in 2017. First off, you absolutely need to wear special glasses if you’re going to watch the sun’s changes as the eclipse begins and before the totality. Do not take them off and look at the sun until it’s in full eclipse or risk burning your corneas permanently! However, once the sun is fully blocked, take the glasses off and look! At that point, depending on how much cloud cover there is, you can probably see solar flares on the rim or the black disk where the sun was shining. You might glimpse Bailey’s Beads – the bright spots around the black orb. My greatest hope is to see the Coronal Flares.

The solar corona visible during a clear total eclipse.

The solar corona visible during a clear total eclipse. Photo: Brian Day

Get Ready for the Next Eclipse

Come 2026 Brian Day plans on being in Spain, somewhere along the total solar eclipse path as it sweeps across the country. There are many other countries to watch it as well as you can discover on the website, National Eclipse

The NASA logo and astronomy website

The NASA logo and astronomy website Photo: Brian Day

NASA Between Eclipses and Beyond

Right now, NASA has made their data visualization and analysis tools available to the public. Use the website to view the moon and other surfaces in the solar system as seen through the eyes of many different instruments. Access data from across the solar system, even go into interactive 3D mode and fly across the surface of planets, down into the depths of craters and valleys. Dive deeper and even become a Citizen Scientist!
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Enthralled by the eclipse? Then know the moon will be an even bigger part of the human story in the years to come as NASA releases the Artemis 1, 2 and 3. I can’t wait to witness the first woman and first person of color step onto the moon – and stay awhile!
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I was not hosted or compensated for this post but wish to thank Brian Day and the NASA team on the ground in Mazatlan at the Vidanta/Mayan Palace Hotel as well as NASA’s local partners: the Mexican Space Agency and the Salvas organization – Mazatlan Astronomical Society. Thank you also to the Cross Border Express. Here’s to clear skies and views!