people view the solar eclipse

More Americans will be able to view the 2024 total solar eclipse than the one in 2017, when visitors at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory stopped to watch the celestial event on Aug. 21, 2017. (Photo/NASA)


The best place to see the total solar eclipse in 2024

Here’s where the skies will be clearest — and the surroundings most beautiful.

March 28, 2024 By Rachel B. Levin

About the eclipse, part 1, 2, 3, 4They’re doorways to scientific discoveries. They’ve inspired myths both modern and ancient. And, if not viewed properly, they can cause blindness.

Total solar eclipses — which occur when the moon passes between the Earth and the sun, temporarily blocking the sun’s brilliance — are rare phenomena. On April 8, 2024, a total solar eclipse will be visible from the contiguous United States for the first time since 2017, and the next one won’t be visible from U.S. soil until 2044.

In USC News’ four-part series on the eclipse, USC experts weigh in on multiple aspects of this extraordinary celestial event: how to safely view the eclipse, the best place to see it, how to photograph it, and its symbolism.

Part 2: Where to watch the event

More Americans will have a front-row seat to the 2024 total solar eclipse than they did during the one in 2017. As it moves along its path from southwest Mexico to northeast Canada, the eclipse will cross 15 U.S. states, from Texas to Maine, passing over more cities and densely populated areas than the 2017 eclipse.

An estimated 31.6 million people will be in the path of totality — where the moon totally blocks the sun — up from 12 million in 2017. Millions more are expected to travel to see the totality unfold.

Outside of the path of totality, a partial solar eclipse will be visible in all 48 contiguous states.

But no matter the location, the weather will be a mitigating factor.

 “The only thing that’s going to matter is whether you have cloudy skies or not — because if you have cloudy skies, you’re not going to see the eclipse,” said Vahé Peroomian, professor (teaching) of physics and astronomy at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

The best city for clear skies

April 8 is historically an overcast day along much of the eclipse’s path. “Every city in the U.S. along the path of totality has had cloudy skies 60% of the time [on April 8] in the last 20 years,” said Peroomian, an avid astro-tourist.

He recommended paying close attention to the forecast before making travel plans. “You might travel a long way only to see cloudy skies,” he cautioned.

Peroomian singled out Mazatlán, Mexico, as the best city for eclipse tourists. “It has only a 28% chance of being cloudy [on April 8],” he said.

The best natural setting

If the weather permits, natural settings such as national parks can create evocative backdrops for the eclipse. Niagara Falls in New York, Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas and Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio are just a few of the most scenic spots along the path of totality.

Last October, Peroomian traveled to Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah with his son to see the annular solar eclipse, when the moon partially blocked the sun. He described the natural surroundings as awe-inspiring. As the sky got progressively darker, the air temperature dropped and the wind quieted.

“Birds stopped singing,” Peroomian said. “A hush fell over the landscape.”

The best place for scientific research

At the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, a group of 16 students has been working since the fall semester to figure out how to photograph the eclipse in the path of totality from a helium balloon that will rise approximately 100,000 feet in the air — to the edge of space. The balloon itself will burst at peak altitude, but its payload will descend to the ground carrying the photographic equipment and data.

The group is advised by Michael Kezirian, adjunct professor of astronautics practice, who led two student balloon missions during the total solar eclipse in 2017 as part of NASA’s Space Grant Ballooning Project.

USC community members launch a helium balloon
Photographed during the 2017 solar eclipse, Michael Kezirian, adjunct professor of astronautics practice, worked with USC Viterbi School of Engineering students to document the eclipse from a helium balloon; this year, his team will take a photo from a helium balloon launched from Del Rio, Texas. (Photo/Courtesy Michael Kezirian)

This year’s group spent considerable time choosing the most promising location for the balloon mission. They had to evaluate many factors, including the best terrain for launching the balloon and recovering the equipment when it returned to the ground. If the hardware were to land in a forested area or a large body of water, it could be damaged or hard to recover.

Weather conditions are also a concern. The students are hoping to avoid clouds, which could make it difficult for aircraft to see the balloon during its flight; rain, which could make balloon setup even more challenging and damage the sensitive electronics on board; and high surface winds, which could interfere with filling the balloon with helium, ultimately affecting its predicted path in the sky. High-altitude winds also must be accounted for, as the balloon will travel with the wind current on its approximately 30-minute trip to peak altitude.

The group favored Texas for its proximity to Los Angeles to reduce travel time and costs and its comparatively drier climate with fewer trees and large bodies of water than other states in the path of totality. Second-year aerospace engineering student Nicholas Lototsky gathered hourly weather data from six local airports in Texas from the past 15 years and ran simulations of the balloon’s trajectory from launch to peak altitude.

He settled upon Del Rio, Texas — a small city approximately seven miles from the U.S.-Mexico border — as the optimal launch spot.

“Del Rio has a 2% chance of rain on April 8 compared to about 6% in other sites in Texas and a 70% chance of clear skies compared to only about 50% in other parts of Texas,” said Armen Arakelyan, a junior astronautical engineering major co-leading the project with astronautical engineering doctoral student Howard Hall. “Del Rio is also located west of the center of the path of totality, so when the balloon is released, the jet stream will carry it toward the center of totality.”

Arakelyan added that he’s looking forward to traveling to Del Rio with the USC Viterbi group.

“It’s one thing to just see the eclipse, which is really cool,” Arakelyan said. “But whenever you have some objective, some mission behind it, it just adds another level to it.”