Anticipation grows ahead of total solar eclipse

Eclipse watchers are keeping a close eye on the weather ahead of a solar eclipse that will plunge a wide strip of North America into daytime darkness on Monday.

Forecasters are predicting cloudy conditions in northern Mexico, Texas and parts of the Great Lakes region.

Better weather is expected in western Mexico and parts of the US Midwest.

And some of the best viewing is likely to be under clear spring skies in New England and Canada.

Starting in the Pacific Ocean, the eclipse will become visible on the coast of Mexico near the city of Mazatlan at about 11:07 local time (19:07 BST).

The shadow of the Moon will run across the Earth at a speed of 1,500 mph (2,400 km/h) – tracing a north-easterly arc through the states of Durango and Coahuila before casting parts of Texas, Arkansas and neighbouring states into darkness.

As the path crosses over the US Midwest, a phenomenon known as totality – when the Sun is completely obscured by the Moon – will cross over the cities of Indianapolis, Cleveland and Buffalo.

At around 15:18 Eastern (19:18 GMT) the eclipse will reach Niagara Falls, where a record crowd of up to a million people is expected to turn out to watch mist from the famous cataract turn a pinkish hue – provided the weather co-operates.

The shadow will continue to travel north east through the New England states and into Canada’s Maritime provinces before tracking into the Atlantic Ocean and ending at 20:55 BST.

The eclipse is the first this century to cross over all three North American countries.

Here is a breakdown of when totality will occur in US and Canadian cities, all in local time:

San Antonio, Texas: 13:33 Central (19:33 BST)

Dallas, Texas: 13:40 Central

Carbondale, Illinois: 13:59 Central

Cleveland, Ohio: 15:13 Eastern

Buffalo, New York: 15:18 Eastern

Burlington, Vermont: 15:26 Eastern

Montreal, Quebec: 15:27 Eastern

Fredricton, New Brunswick: 16:33 Atlantic

Gander, Newfoundland and Labrador: 17:12 Newfoundland time

Special events, festivals and even mass weddings will take place in towns and cities across the path.

Nasa and its partner organisations are hosting more than 100 events, including gatherings where the eclipse will first be visible from land in Mazatlan, at the Cotton Bowl stadium in Dallas and at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indiana.

Crowds will fill a football stadium in Carbondale, Illinois, where the path of Monday’s eclipse will intersect the path of the last solar eclipse to travel across the United States, in 2017.

The main variable for many viewers will be the weather down here on Earth.

In its latest eclipse forecast Sunday, the US National Weather Service warned of potential severe conditions including heavy rain, tornados and hail which may affect travel in Texas and nearby states. The view in San Antonio is expected to be almost entirely obscured by clouds.

However, cloudy conditions will not necessarily spoil the experience. No matter the weather, the sky will still dim considerably as the Moon’s shadow travels across the Earth.

(BBC News)

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