This past Monday, 36 seconds after local clocks turned to 10:21 a.m., thousands of star partiers at a football field in Oregon let out a collective cheer at the sparkle of a “diamond ring.” The brief appearance of this stellar bling marked the climax of the celestial show of the year, the total solar eclipse. Mixed in with the clapping and yelling were chants of “Let’s do it again,” harboring memories of Chicago Cubs baseball legend Ernie Banks, who famously uttered, “Let’s play two” because, hey, one of something as special as a ballgame (or a total solar eclipse) just isn’t enough.
Of course, eclipses aren’t nearly as common as baseball games and a quick repetition is usually not in the cards. While total solar eclipses occur on average about once every 18 months, the path from which such events are visible is narrow and varies with each eclipse, so total solar eclipses cross the same geographical area on Earth only about once every 375 years. Arizona is in the middle of a 399-year wait; it hasn’t witnessed a total solar eclipse since Thomas Jefferson was president back in 1806 and will have to wait until 2205 to see the next. Only two years later, on November 20, 2207, Arizona will then experience another one. This two-year separation is about as close as the Sun, Moon, and Earth come to “playing two,” at least in terms of total eclipses of the solar variety.
This past week’s total solar eclipse was the first one to hit United States soil in 16 years (a 1991 event crossed over Hawaii), the first to reach the continental United States in 38 years, and the first to cross the continental United States, from the Pacific to Atlantic oceans, in 99 years. While Arizona’s hiatus will continue, the world, as well as the United States at large, won’t have nearly as long a wait. The next total solar eclipse is visible from the South Pacific Ocean, Chile, and Argentina and comes on July 2, 2019.
The next one to hit the United States is only seven years away. That total solar eclipse happens on April 8, 2024 and, like the 2017 event, will cross over parts of 14 states. Contrary to this year’s path of totality that stretched from Oregon in a southeasterly direction through South Carolina, the one in 2024 will enter Texas from Mexico and cross the country in a northeasterly pattern. Lucky states along this trek will include Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine.
The next total solar eclipse to cross the United States from the Pacific to Atlantic oceans, like last Monday’s eclipse, happens in only 28 years, on August 12, 2045.
If these delays still seem too long, lunar eclipses will occur much sooner. Next year (January 31, 2018) will see a partial lunar eclipse pass over Arizona, and the next total lunar eclipse over our state is less than two years away, on January 21, 2019 (the last one to cross Arizona was on October 8, 2014).
In no time at all, crowds will again gather for these spectacular dances between the Sun, Moon, and Earth, and we will once more hear the chant, “Let’s do it again.”