Total solar eclipse

By Alan Koenigsberg, M.D.

At approximately 1:40 p.m. local Dallas time, this April 8, 2024, a total solar eclipse will be visible from Dallas.

We had a partial solar eclipse a few months ago, which in itself was rather spectacular. A complete, total solar eclipse, however, will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience that is well worth preparing for.

A solar eclipse occurs when the moon comes between the sun and the earth. Even though the sun is about 400 times the diameter of the moon, it is also about 400 times further away, so they appear to be the same size. So when the moon comes between them, it may completely block out the sun in various areas of the earth.

A lunar eclipse occurs when the earth comes between the sun and the moon, obscuring part or all of the moon.

While partial eclipses of the sun are relatively common, total eclipses are less frequent. Total eclipses from where one lives happen even less commonly.

For those of us fortunate enough to live in the Dallas area, we can just step outside and watch the eclipse. For those who live nearby, it may be worth taking the day to travel to an area of totality, as this may indeed be a once-in-a-lifetime astronomical event.

In the interest of an abundance of safety, it’s worth repeating, even at the risk of insulting the intelligence of some, that it is extremely dangerous to watch the eclipse directly. The sun’s rays can damage the retinas of the eyes in seconds.

With binoculars or a telescope, watching the eclipse without protection can cause permanent damage in less than one second.

There are many simple, safe and affordable options. Many local big-box stores are selling inexpensive sunglasses made expressly for watching the eclipse. I advise buying several from a reputable seller.

I bought some several months ago, when we had the partial solar eclipse, and they worked perfectly.

As for details, the following information is available on the NASA website: https://science.nasa.gov/eclipses/future-eclipses/eclipse-2024/where-when/.

Given that we have about two months to prepare, I hope all those who are interested have the opportunity to experience this magnificent event.

Alan Koenigsberg, M.D., is a practicing psychiatrist and clinical professor of psychiatry at UTSW Medical School in Dallas. He can be reached at akoenigsberg@mac.com.

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