On Wednesday and Thursday, a particularly strange “hybrid” eclipse is coming to Australia, Indonesia, and some other parts of Southeast Asia, but you don’t have to be there to watch. Don’t miss it—the next one won’t happen for nearly another decade.
An astonishing one in 10 people on Earth will be in the path of this celestial event—and thanks to the internet, even more can watch the moon pass in front of the sun on April 20, between 1:30 and 7 a.m. universal time (UTC). In the US, that’s 9:30 p.m. Eastern Time on Wednesday, April 19 and 3 a.m. on Thursday, April 20.
As a hybrid eclipse, the moon will either cover the full sun or appear haloed by a “ring of fire,” depending on where it is along the eclipse’s path. In-person viewers will only be able to see one of these sights and will have to track down video to see the other. The next hybrid eclipse won’t occur again until November 31, 2031.
How to see the April 20 solar eclipse in person
The exact time of the eclipse will vary depending on your location, so you’ll need to check when it will be visible for you. Timeanddate.com has a particularly handy tool for figuring this out. To use it, click Path Map at the top of the page and see if you’re going to be under any part of the eclipse’s path. If so, zoom in to pinpoint where you are and click on the map to bring up an information box that shows when the event will be visible in local time.
Even if you’re in the partial eclipse zone, it’s worth stepping outside to take a peek at this celestial happening. “We are going to get coffee and freak out about the sky. It’s going to be fun,” says University of Melbourne astronomer Benji Metha about his eclipse plans. The moon will cover only about 10 percent of the sun where he is in southeastern Australia.
[Related: April 2023 stargazing guide]
If you’re in the eclipse’s path, be sure to come prepared. Never look directly at the sun. Eclipse glasses are readily available online, but make sure the ones you’re buying aren’t fake. Too late to buy? You can make your own eclipse projector instead. Unlike almost every other astronomical event, solar eclipses happen in the daytime, so you won’t really be able to spot other stars or deep sky objects at the same time. The sun and moon will be the only ones on stage.
How to view the April 20 hybrid eclipse online
Just because you’re in the United States or anywhere else outside of the eclipse’s path doesn’t mean you have to miss out on all the action. The Gravity and Discovery Centre and Observatory will be livestreaming from Exmouth, Australia, where every bit of the sun will be covered for 58 seconds at 11:30 a.m. local time (11:30 p.m. ET on April 19). For viewers on the US East Coast, the full show will run from roughly 10 p.m. on April 19 to 1 a.m. on April 20.
Timeanddate is also hosting an eclipse livestream in collaboration with Perth Observatory in western Australia, where roughly 70 percent of the sun will be covered. Like Exmouth, Perth is 12 hours ahead of New York City, so live video will start at 10 p.m. ET on April 19 and continue until the partial eclipse ends around 12:46 a.m. ET on April 20.
Tune in, and you’ll be joining solar scientists around the world who are particularly interested in this event and the data they can gather from it. “I look forward to this eclipse, because it is a long-anticipated party,” says Berkeley heliophysicist Jia Huang. “A hybrid eclipse is very rare.”
When is the next eclipse?
If you miss the show, there are sure to be some incredible photos posted from the event, and you will be able to watch recordings online afterward. But if you want to see an eclipse in person, a few are coming to the States soon enough.
First, an annular solar eclipse will travel from Oregon to Texas on October 14, 2023, followed several months later by the next North American total solar eclipse from Texas up through Maine on April 8, 2024.
What to know about the four types of solar eclipses
Solar eclipses happen whenever Earth’s moon gets between us and the sun, aligning to block out the sunlight and cause an eerie daytime darkness. Eclipses are predictable, thanks to centuries of observational astronomy across many cultures, and “we can now forecast these events with incredible accuracy,” Metha says. It’s a good thing we know when they’re coming so we’re not surprised. “Imagine how many car accidents a sudden solar eclipse would cause if people were not expecting it,” he adds.
These celestial events come in a few flavors: total, partial, annular, and hybrid. In a total eclipse, the moon fully blocks out the sun. For a partial eclipse, the sun and moon aren’t quite lined up, so only a chunk of the sun is covered. Similarly, for an annular eclipse, some of the sun remains exposed—but this type happens when the moon is at its farthest point from Earth and appears smaller, creating a ring of light when it lines up with the sun. Hybrid eclipses, like the one happening this week, shift between total and annular due to the curvature of Earth.
Solar eclipses trace paths along Earth’s surface, with a path of totality—where you can see a total eclipse—in the center, surrounded by various shades of partial eclipse. The upcoming April 20 eclipse path of totality clips the northwestern corner of Australia and passes through the islands of Timor, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea. The entirety of Australia, the Philippines, Malaysia, and parts of other Southeast Asian countries will experience at least a partial eclipse.
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This is such a large and populous region that nearly 10 percent of the world’s population will be able to experience the upcoming eclipse, though only 0.004 percent (about 375,000 people) will be able to see the full total or annular view.
Whether you catch this one or not, make sure you write down the upcoming eclipses we mentioned above—maybe you’ll be one of the lucky few right underneath the next time around.