Total Solar Eclipse, April 8, 2024

Published by chris on

We’ve all been hearing a lot about the Solar Eclipse next week, mostly because it’s total, and it will be visible through much of the USA. That’s somewhat less than common. So let’s talk a little bit about eclipses in general, and then a bit about this one.

The mechanics

A solar eclipse happens when the Moon passes directly between the Earth and the Sun, blocking the light of the Sun. Of course, the Moon and the Sun are vastly different in size (the Sun is 400x the size of the Moon). But because the Moon is a lot closer to the Earth than the Sun is (it falls only 1/400 the distance away than the Sun is), we on Earth have what is a unique planetary experience where the two discs appear to be almost exactly the same size as seen from any point on the planet. Other planets (inhabited or not) don’t experience this phenomenon because their Suns and Moons don’t work out to be the same size to the eye.

Timing

Solar eclipses happen, on average, twice per year, approximately six months apart. Much of the time, they are not visible to most people on the Earth. And most of the time, the eclipses are partial, not total. Solar eclipses happen at the New Moon, when the Moon and Sun are seen in the same part of the sky from the Earth. Usually, the Full Moon just before or just after the Solar Eclipse is also a Lunar Eclipse, when the Earth passes exactly between the Moon and the Sun, and the Earth’s shadow covers a portion of the face of the Moon.

Location

The eclipse points move backwards through the part of the sky known as the Zodiac. They spend approximately 18 months in a pair of opposing signs, before moving on to the previous two signs. Currently, the eclipses are happening in Aries/Libra. Last year, they were in Taurus/Scorpio.

Meaning

Of course, inquiring minds want to know, What does this eclipse mean (for me)? Well, there are a few important things to know about the effects of eclipses in general.

First of all, traditionally all eclipses were seen as negative. Astrology was developed in grand part based on the light that emanates from different solar bodies. The Sun and Moon were/are called “the lights,” and the bright shining planets, Venus and Jupiter, were/are considered “benefics” (do gooders), while Mars and Saturn, which shine far more dimly, were/are considered “malefics” (bad boys). So in general, light=good, darkness=bad (to grossly oversimplify).

When the light from one of “the lights” is completely swallowed up by another, that’s really bad, and in ancient times, was almost always viewed with anxiety.

However, I don’t totally subscribe to this view, and my own experience has been very clear that even eclipses of the same series, which happen 19 years apart, but have similar characteristics, can yield vastly different effects, given a different context. Like where they fall in your own chart, or how they compare to your Solar Return for the year.

Astrologer Chris Brennan, of the Astrology Podcast, sums it up this way: Great Beginnings and Great Endings. While that may seem a bit vague, I think it’s a pretty good summary. It allows for the “good” and the “bad.”

April 8, 2024

Next Monday’s eclipse will be at its maximum in the mid-afternoon on the East Coast of the US. In this chart, set for Washington DC (but similar for the entire east coast), the eclipse is happening in the 9th house (at the top, a little to the right). On a national level, this is likely to bring major shakeups and changes to 9th house things, such as law and the legal profession, the judiciary (court systems), universities and higher education, publishing (print but also online), foreign affairs, and more.

It’s also happening in Aries, a sign ruled by Mars, and usually quite headstrong and chaotic. The fact that Mars here is in Pisces, conjunct Saturn, in the 8th house is probably going to tone things down a bit (both Pisces and Saturn), but it could make things quite nasty, given that Mars and Saturn together can often by quite malefic. The 8th house represents (among other things) death and shared finances.

This will likely have important implications for things like the wars in Ukraine, and Gaza/Israel, the credibility of the US Supreme Court as well as other courts (watch Texas especially*). Universities may struggle, and we may see issues of censorship in print and online media arise. The 8th house connection is probably related to the casualties of the current wars among US allies, but also about our ability and willingness to continue to support them, especially financially.

Of course, when the chart gets moved around the world, it will affect different affairs for each location, as the planets and signs fall in different places at different locations, but the overall flavor will be the same.

For individuals

If you are familiar with your own birth chart, you should identify what house of the chart Aries falls on for you. The topics of that house are likely the ones that are going to be most affected. That’s where to look for big beginnings and big endings. Here is a very basic diagram of the meaning of the houses. For more information, book an appointment with your friendly neighborhood (or Zoom-available) astrologer.

Another factor that I have found really important in how eclipses affect individuals is how the person’s Solar Return — their chart for the year — and the eclipse chart line up. You can use the house diagram above to apply to the Solar Return as well. If the Sun/Moon in the eclipse fall in beneficial places in the Solar Return chart, the eclipse is more likely to herald some positive changes, whereas if the Sun/Moon fall in challenging houses (2, 6, 8, 12, for example), then the effects will also be challenging. Again, consult a good astrologer for more personal details.

How long will the effects last?

There are a few ways to look at this. There are some formulae from traditional texts that instruct the astrologer to determine how long the eclipse lasts, and then how to convert that into a block of time (usually weeks or months). I have not noticed a high degree of accuracy with this so far in my practice. But maybe that applies more to mundane events (world stuff) than to individual birth charts. Others tell us that Lunar eclipse effects last a few months, while Solar eclipse effects can last around 6 months. Still others teach that the effects are fairly short-lived, only during “eclipse season” (the few weeks that encompass the lunar and solar eclipse that accompany each other).

My own thoughts are that the bigger the splash on a personal level, the longer the effects seem to last.

Final notes on Watching an Eclipse

If you plan to watch this (or any) eclipse live in the sky, it is absolutely critical that you wear adequate eye protection. The American Astronomical Society has a list of approved eyewear for Solar eclipses. NASA also has a good article on eclipse safety.

But here’s something that people often don’t think about: when the Sun is shining, we can only look at it for a few seconds before turning away because it hurts our eyes. This is actually protective. When the Sun’s disc is completely covered by the Moon, our eyes are less likely to have to turn away from the glare, since there is none. However, there are other light spectra still entering our eyes, and these are the ones that are really bad for us (UV, infrared, etc.). The protective glare of the Sun is absent, tempting us to want to look directly at the Solar disc, even with no eye protection. DON’T DO IT! Use eye protection at all times while observing a Solar eclipse, or use an alternative method of viewing it (see the NASA article).

Where can you see it? Almost anywhere in the US will have some level of access to view this eclipse, provided that the skies are fairly clear. The red line through the middle of the map below is the 100% visibility line. So if you are near it, you will have the total experience. But even outside of that, you will be able to see a lot of it. I have highlighted the 75% visibility lines here in purple, and the 50% lines in yellow. You can see that more than half the continental US should be able to see 75% or more coverage. Of course, if you’re not right at the 100% line, the sky won’t go dark as if it were night. But it will still be impressive.

*The October 2023 solar eclipse ran directly through Texas, as does the April 2024 solar eclipse. Here are the paths, marking a huge X in the Lone Star State.

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Categories: Blog Posts