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Sun Series: Minisode! Countdown to Total Solar Eclipse 2024

Season 7Episode 5Apr 6, 2024

It’s time. On April 8, 2024, millions of people across North America will see a total solar eclipse. Get the most out of totality with this special bonus episode. Listen up for safety tips, learn how to make your own pinhole projector to safely view the eclipse and learn how anyone—including you!—can contribute to NASA research through citizen science. And if you’re not in the path of totality, watch NASA’s live broadcast starting at 1 p.m. EDT. NASA’s Curious Universe is an official NASA podcast. See when the eclipse starts where you are with NASA’s Eclipse Explorer:

The cover art display for the NASA's Curious Universe podcast.

Introducing NASA’s Curious Universe         

Get curious with NASA. As an official NASA podcast, Curious Universe brings you mind-blowing science and space adventures you won’t find anywhere else. Explore the cosmos alongside astronauts, scientists, engineers, and other top NASA experts who are achieving remarkable feats in science, space exploration, and aeronautics. Learn something new about the wild and wonderful universe we share. All you need to get started is a little curiosity. 

NASA’s Curious Universe is an official NASA podcast hosted by Padi Boyd and Jacob Pinter 

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Episode description:  

It’s time. On April 8, 2024, millions of people across North America will see a total solar eclipse. Get the most out of totality with this special bonus episode. Listen up for safety tips, learn how to make your own pinhole projector to safely view the eclipse and learn how anyone—including you!—can contribute to NASA research through citizen science. And if you’re not in the path of totality, watch NASA’s live broadcast starting at 1 p.m. EDT. NASA’s Curious Universe is an official NASA podcast.     

See when the eclipse starts where you are with NASA’s Eclipse Explorer: 



Hey Space Nerds. It is time.  


[Song: “Sound Design_Digital_Rhythmic Quirk” by Christopher Lesley Willam Ketley, David Thomas Connelly, and Max Samuel Rowat] 


On Monday—that’s April 8, 2024—tens of millions of people in the United States, Mexico, and Canada will see a total solar eclipse. Now a total solar eclipse lasts for just a few minutes, and in this special bonus episode of NASA’s Curious Universe, we’re going to help you make it an unforgettable experience.  


[Theme music: “Curiosity” by SYSTEM Sounds] 


I’m Jacob Pinter, cohost of NASA’s Curious Universe, and this is your audio guide to the eclipse. We have info on how you can watch the eclipse safely, how you can get involved with citizen science or even make a homemade pinhole projector, and how NASA is bringing the eclipse to you in case you can’t make it to the path of totality.  


So let’s get into it. First things first: here’s a quick overview of Monday’s eclipse. Things get started around midday. The Pacific coast of Mexico will see the eclipse first. Totality there starts just after 11 a.m. Pacific time. The path of totality then loops up to the northeast, across 13 U.S. states from Texas to Maine. Then it continues into Canada, exiting the Atlantic coast of Newfoundland just after 5 p.m. local time.  


At most, totality will last for a shade under four-and-a-half minutes. But you can find out the exact moment totality will start in your location and exactly how long it will last at NASA’s website. We have an interactive map with everything you need to know. The address is That’s 

OK, so here to help me out is Julia Tilton. She’s the intern for our audio team. Julia, what’s going on?  


JULIA TILTON: Hi Jacob, it’s great to be here.

JACOB PINTER: Well Julia, you have gathered some frequently asked questions about the eclipse, so let’s try and answer those. What’s first?  


JULIA TILTON: OK, so my first question is, what safety tips do we need to know about the eclipse?  


JACOB PINTER: The short answer is “eclipse glasses”. And the long answer is, “Wear your eclipse glasses!”  


[Song: “Shades of White” by Daniel Jansson] 


No, but really, if you’re going to look directly at the Sun, please wear eclipse glasses. It’s just not safe to look directly at the Sun with regular sunglasses no matter how dark they are—and definitely not with the naked eye. You can take your eclipse glasses off only during those few minutes of totality. Otherwise, do not look at the Sun without them. If you’re with kids, please keep an eye on them too. You want to make sure that they’re using their solar viewers properly.  


Also you might be tempted to hold up a camera lens and take a picture through your eclipse glasses, or even to use your eclipse glasses as a filter for binoculars or a telescope. This is not a good idea. Those devices can concentrate the Sun’s rays and cause serious eye injuries. Please do not do this. 



Now, if you’re scrambling to find eclipse glasses, you may still be able to find them at a local library or a community center. And there are also other ways to experience the eclipse without looking directly at the Sun.  


You can stick around till the end of this episode. We have step-by-step directions for making your very own pinhole projector. It’s a lot of fun to do with kids or anybody who’s crafty. It’s also just a really great way to see the eclipse without eclipse glasses. So that’s coming up later. 

JULIA TILTON: That sounds cool! I always love an excuse for a craft. OK, so here’s my next question for you. On the show you’ve been talking a lot about all the NASA science happening around the Sun and the eclipse. But how can our listeners get involved with it? 


JACOB PINTER: Yes. If this is up your alley and you want to participate in the eclipse instead of just watching it, NASA has a few different ways you can contribute through something called citizen science.  


[Song: “Byte Sized” by Dylan Matthew Love] 


First up is SunSketcher. This project is based on the fact that the Sun is not actually a perfect sphere for reasons that we’re just not going to go into here, and this project is trying to take measurements of the Sun’s exact shape.   


So to participate, you’ll need to download the SunSketcher app before the eclipse. That only takes a few minutes. And then, as the eclipse is beginning, you’ll record this phenomenon called Baily’s beads. Those are the last glimmers of sunlight slipping past the Moon. Then, when totality ends, the Sun reappears from the other side of the Moon, and you’ll capture that too. The website for that project is Please check out their instructions because as we’ve said, you should take a lot of precaution when you look at or photograph the Sun.  


Another option is the Eclipse Soundscapes project. We went into this one in detail in the most recent episode of our Sun Series. The short version is, during an eclipse, wildlife start behaving like it’s nighttime, and this project wants curious people like you to capture what that sounds like. You can sign up on their website, There’s a short certification process to go through. They will also need data analysis after the eclipse. So if you want to help out later, that’s a good option too.  


And there are even more NASA citizen science opportunities. You can find the full list at That’s 


JULIA TILTON: Next question for you: one of our listeners was curious about whether we will be having fewer total eclipses in the future and more annular ones. 


JACOB PINTER: I love this question because it’s so interesting. So it turns out thatthe Moon is slowly moving away from Earth. Really slowly—like, it’s getting about an inch farther from us each year.  


So in the question you asked about an annular solar eclipse. When that happens, the Moon is farther away from Earth, so it doesn’t completely block out the Sun, and it leaves what’s often referred to as a “ring of fire”.  


So, the short answer is that yes, in the future we’ll have fewer total solar eclipses as a result of this movement. But I don’t think any of us should wait around to see it, because when you’re as far away as the Moon is, one inch a year is really not doing much.  


JULIA TILTON: OK, gotcha. So, last question for you: where is the best place to watch this total solar eclipse?  


[Song: “Just Dance” by Joshua Peter Oliver] 


JACOB PINTER: Well I would submit that there is no single right answer. I really think that the best place is wherever you can watch it. You know, you can get in the weeds about the length of totality and the potential for cloud cover wherever you are. And those kind of details, they can enhance your experience.  


But no matter where you are in our wild and wonderful universe, you can also experience the total solar eclipse through NASA’s live broadcast. It will be on NASA’s YouTube page and of course on the agency’s streaming platform, NASA+. The show starts at 1 p.m. Eastern. And if you really want to nerd out, there will also be a telescope-only feed of the eclipse so you don’t miss a single detail. 


You can find NASA+ at or you can download the official NASA app. 


And everything related to the eclipse is at—that’s 



Well Julia, thank you so much. These were great questions and hopefully it sets people up to have a great total solar eclipse. 


JULIA TILTON: Thanks for having me.  


JACOB PINTER: After the total solar eclipse, the Sun is not going anywhere—and neither are we. You can join us on a five-part deep dive into the plasma—that’s a series all about the Sun—here on NASA’s Curious Universe. You can find it wherever you listen to this podcast or at We’ll see you there. 


JULIA TILTON: This is NASA’s Curious Universe. This episode was written by me, Julia Tilton … 


JACOB PINTER: … and produced by me, Jacob Pinter. Our executive producer is Katie Konans.  


JULIA TILTON: The Curious Universe team includes Christian Elliott, Maddie Olson, Micheala Sosby, and of course, Padi Boyd. Krystofer Kim is our show artist. Our theme song was composed by Matt Russo and Andrew Santaguida of SYSTEM Sounds.  


JACOB PINTER: Special thanks to you for being a space nerd. And to the Moon and Sun for putting on a great show. If you enjoyed this episode of NASA’s Curious Universe, please let us know by leaving us a review and sharing the show with a friend. And remember, you can follow NASA’s Curious Universe in your favorite podcast app to get a notification each time we post a new episode.   


JULIA TILTON: We love to hear what you’re thinking. So, if you’ve got something to say about our Sun Series or just want to say hi, send us an email to  


And remember, stay curious! 


JACOB PINTER: OK, if you’re still listening, you are in the right place. That means that you want the details on making a pinhole projector for the solar eclipse. Well, we’ve got you covered. I’ll just say this works great if you’re not in the path of totality, if you’re seeing a partial solar eclipse. And that’s almost everyone in the United States. 


So, to make a pinhole projector, you’ll need a few supplies.  


[Song: “Tactical Tinkerer” by Liam Joseph Hennessey] 


Two pieces of white cardstock paper, aluminum foil, tape, scissors, and something to poke a small hole into the cardstock—like a safety pin, a a paperclip, a pencil. Anything small and pointy.  


First, take one of those pieces of cardstock. You’ll want to cut a hole that’s a square or rectangle shape, and about one to two inches wide. When that’s done, get your foil and tape a small piece of it over that hole. Now flip the cardstock over. Use your paperclip, pencil, or other pointy thing to poke a small hole in the foil. And then you’re ready to go. Keep that second piece of cardstock handy, though.  


Once the eclipse is starting and you’re ready to use the pinhole projector, here’s what to do. Stand outside where you can see the Sun. But you want the Sun behind you, so turn your back. Grab that first piece of cardstock—the one with the foil—and hold it so that the Sun is shining down onto the paper. And this where you need your second piece of cardstock. So, that goes on the ground so that the first piece is casting a shadow onto that second piece. 


[Song: “Mystery Helper” by Liam Joseph Hennessey]  


When you look down, voilà! The Sun is being projected onto the paper! Once the partial eclipse begins, you can watch safely as the Moon travels across the Sun, creating a brilliant, miniature eclipse on the ground. If you’re in the path of totality, you can look up when the Sun is completely covered by the Moon, but before and after that, stick with your pinhold projector unless you have eclipse glasses.  


If you want the same effect with even less work, you can use a colander or something else with tiny holes. Just angle it so that the Sun shines down through it and projects light onto another surface. And you can even use your hands. Just face away from the Sun, hold out your fingers, and overlap your hands so that they make a pattern like a waffle. Boom, you see the Sun projected onto the ground.  


All right. Thanks for sticking around to the end, and enjoy the total solar eclipse.