The moon passing between the Earth and the sun (photo by iStock)

Where and How to Witness the Total Solar Eclipse in Ohio

A huge swath of our state will have an incredible view of the total solar eclipse on April 8, 2024, as a 124-mile-wide band of totality stretches across Ohio. It won’t happen again until 2099. 

The total solar eclipse our state will experience on April 8, 2024, won’t happen again until 2099. Looking for a place to experience this rare event? Check out what destinations across Ohio are doing to mark the occasion

The last time Ohio experienced a total solar eclipse in 1806, the state was just three years old, Ulysses S. Grant wouldn’t be born for another 15 years, and the telephone and radio wouldn’t be invented for about 70 and 90 years, respectively.

“It must have been an amazing, interesting time,” says Frederic Bertley, president and CEO of COSI in Columbus, of the June 16, 1806, eclipse. “All of the sudden it was pitch black after being sunny — that must have been crazy! A few experts in the sciences might have known it was coming, but the average person had no idea.”

Bertley hopes the total eclipse that will arch across the state April 8, traveling from the southwest to the northeast, starting at about 3:08 p.m., will inspire as much awe as the one in 1806 — even though we know it’s coming. He compares the total blackout nature of the eclipse, which will last about three to four minutes depending on where you are, to something you might see in a comic book or sci-fi movie.

“It’s just nature at its finest,” says Bertley, who started at COSI eight months before a partial eclipse graced Ohio’s skies in August 2017. “And all you’ve got to do is put on safety glasses and look up.”

Solar eclipses occur when the moon passes between the Earth and sun, casting an astronomical shadow on our planet. While there are varying types of eclipses based on the exact orientation of all three celestial bodies involved, during a total eclipse the moon completely blocks the sun, dramatically darkening the skies. On April 8, 2024, anyone in the 124-mile-wide band that touches over half the counties in Ohio will be able to look up and see anywhere from full to partial totality. The further north or south you are from the center line of that band, which starts in Darke County and runs through Lorain County and out into Lake Erie, the less totality you’ll experience. The eclipse will also be shorter. Places outside the path of totality will see a partial eclipse where the moon doesn’t completely block the sun, instead making it appear as a crescent.

April 8, 2024, total solar eclipse path of totality across Ohio (photo by NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio)

It all works because the sun is approximately 400 times bigger than the moon, and the sun is approximately 400 times further away from the Earth than the moon. It’s a cosmic coincidence that isn’t found anywhere else in our solar system.

“It’s because that proportional geometry works that we get this very, very unique situation where the moon and the sun appear roughly the same size in the sky,” says Chris Hartenstine, public engagement team lead for NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. 

Hartenstine says that while people who want to see the eclipse need to remember to acquire glasses that meet certain requirements to safely view the eclipse (the American Astronomical Society maintains a list of suppliers that meet the ISO 12312-2 international standard), if you’re in the path of totality, you can take the glasses off for the few minutes the sun is completely blocked. If you’re at an official viewing event, such as one that NASA is hosting with the Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland, there should be an air horn or some other signal that it’s OK to remove your glasses. Many locations with such events should have glasses for purchase, but your best bet is to secure a pair early in case they run out.

“Once you take those glasses off, it’s just a massive reveal,” Hartenstine says. “And you get to see the corona — the atmosphere and radiation — of the sun away from the bright, brilliant disk in the center. And that’s something you just can only see in a total eclipse.”

One of the spots right along the path of totality in Ohio is Wapakoneta, which is fitting considering it’s the birthplace of Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon. The Auglaize County city, which will experience about 3 minutes and 56 seconds of totality, is also home to the Armstrong Air & Space Museum. That sort of galactic twist of fate isn’t lost on Logan Rex, the museum’s curator and communications director.

“With Armstrong being the first man on the moon, and then being in the path of totality of this eclipse, that’s a great way to connect the stories,” says Rex, who notes that the museum is hosting a handful of events around the eclipse. “We’ve been looking up at the moon for ages. Armstrong was just another small step in that story.”

The chance for Ohioans to be part of that story won’t come along again for a while. The next total solar eclipse visible in Ohio will be Sept. 14, 2099.

“This is an event that will happen once in your lifetime,” says Bertley, who notes that COSI will have on-site and off-site viewing events. “And you get to experience it. How cool is that?”

Hartenstine echoes that and has some advice for anyone viewing the eclipse: Instead of worrying about taking a photo, put away your phone. There will be plenty of professional photographers to capture the moment.

“You have about 3 minutes and 50 seconds. Take that moment, look up, embrace it, hold it in your memory for the rest of your life,” he says. “Because that would be a much more meaningful experience.”

If you're looking for somewhere to witness the total solar eclipse, check out our guide to what destinations across the state are doing to mark the occasion