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‘All or nothing’ – UK astronomer urges viewers not to make do with a partial eclipse

Simon Calder’s Travel

The US is preparing to witness a total solar eclipse of intense drama.

On Monday 8 April the moon will blot out the sun for over four minutes as a 115-mile-wide “zone of totality” sweeps across North America from Mexico’s Pacific Coast to Atlantic Canada.

Millions of people live in cities just outside the zone, such as Cincinnati and much of San Antonio, while Boston, New York and Chicago will see a sizeable chunk of the sun blotted out.

But the UK’s eclipse guru, Dr John Mason has warned prospective viewers to choose their location with care.

Speaking to The Independent’s daily travel podcast, the astronomer said: “Even when the sun is 99 per cent eclipsed, that 1 per cent is incredibly bright and gives out a lot of light.

“You can’t observe all the wonders of totality unless you’ve got 100 per cent.

“The worst thing you can do is go somewhere that’s outside the zone of totality and then have to travel in – and find there’s a staggering traffic jam and you can’t get into the zone.”

Star guest: Dr John Mason, astronomer and eclipse guru, in Wyoming in 2017 – awaiting that year’s total solar eclipse

(Simon Calder)

The last great eclipse in the US was in 2017. Dr Mason, 69, said: “There were a lot of people who thought it was going to be ‘total’ in Yellowstone Park. It wasn’t.

“They got to Yellowstone Park that morning and said, ‘Oh, it’s not going to be total’. So there was an enormous tailback of camper vans heading south of Yellowstone Park to get into the zone of totality.

“I suspect we shall see similar things this time. You’ve got places such as Cincinnati and Columbus in Ohio – just outside the south limit. If all of those people try and head northwest to get into the zone of totality, then there’s going to be a lot of traffic jams.”

Millions of people are expected to gather in US cities within the zone of totality, such as Indianapolis, Cleveland and Buffalo, while hordes of Texans from San Antonio, Austin and Dallas are likely to drive from their homes on the edge of the total eclipse zone to the centre line.

“There’s a lot of unknowns, and one has no idea how many people will travel or what the roads will be like.”

Rocking all over the Cosmos: Excitement is growing in the US ahead of the eclipse on 8 April 2024

(Simon Calder)

Dr Mason is leading a tour of more than 100…

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