Mohawk Valley Astronomical Society

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Heaven Can Wait

by Perry Pezzolanella

There is a lot of hype about the total eclipse of the Sun coming to Upstate New York on April 8, 2024, and it is justified. Nothing beats the beauty of being immersed in the Moon’s shadow on a sunny day when the Sun becomes totally eclipsed. The only problem for the Utica area is that it will not be total with 99.7% of the Sun being eclipsed. That may still be sufficient to catch an extended display of Bailey’s Beads, but it is not total, and that fraction of a percent still makes a huge difference. A trip to Syracuse, or better yet, Oswego or Rochester, is warranted.

The last time there was a total eclipse of the Sun over Utica was June 16, 1806, and it was a good one, lasting 3 minutes and 10 seconds. The path of totality swept in from Ohio and traveled east with the centerline passing south of Utica between Norwich and Binghamton. While it is not known what the weather was like, it was a morning event with the first bite taken out of the Sun at 9:43 A.M. Totality began at 11:01 A.M. and ended around 11:04 A.M. with it lasting as long as 4 minutes and 48 seconds on the centerline south of here. The entire eclipse was over by 12:26 P.M. and Utica would not experience another for nearly 600 years.

A very close call came on January 24, 1925, when totality passed just south, running from Buffalo to New York City shortly after sunrise, and the weather was clear! The partial eclipse began in Utica at 8:02 A.M., shortly after sunrise, and became 99.6% eclipsed at its peak at 9:11 A.M.! The centerline passed over Binghamton where they enjoyed 1 minute and 55 seconds of totality. It was a close call locally and so impressive that my grandfather, having emigrated here in 1920 from Italy, often talked about it and the huge snowstorm that followed not long afterwards. Many solar crescents shone over Utica in the decades following, most lost in time and memory, but the Christmas Day 2000 “Christmas Crescent” is probably the best remembered along with the beautiful, upside-down crescent Sun on August 21, 2017. With the April 8, 2024, event being another near miss, the question is: When will the next total solar eclipse sweep over Utica?

Totality will finally darken Utica’s skies and its suburbs on hopefully a sunny summer day on August 2, 2399, and it is one worth waiting for, if only we could. Totality will sweep from Alaska, pass through Canada, and cross into the Adirondacks with the centerline passing just to the northeast of Utica, near Blue Mountain Lake and southeast near Lake George where totality will last 5 minutes and 10 seconds. Even though Utica is off the centerline it will experience a generous 3 minutes and 12 seconds of totality! If you want 4 minutes of totality, then head no further than Poland! The first knick in the Sun occurs at 1:38 P.M. with totality starting about 2:49 P.M. and ending about 2:52 P.M. The entire eclipse ends at 4 P.M. The wait for the next one to cross Utica will not be so long, only 106 years. Life is too short.

The total eclipse of the Sun on June 3, 2505 is as close to Utica as the centerline gets in probably thousands of years. The path of totality mimics the path of the April 8, 2024, event, but it curves just enough to bring the centerline almost over the Turning Stone Casino and through Westmoreland, Oriskany, and Marcy! The path begins in Texas and curves up through New York and New England. A short drive to the old Oneida County Airport will assure 3 minutes and 47 seconds of totality and hardly a few seconds shorter in Utica and Rome. The partial eclipse begins at 12:23 P.M. with start of totality about 1:44 P.M. and lasting until about 1:48 P.M. The entire eclipse ends by 3:09 P.M. There will be no more total solar eclipses over Utica through at least the year 3000.

It seems like a dilemma with total solar eclipses so far apart that there is no hope of seeing one over your house. But if you are reading this from Boonville, Lee Center, Sylvan Beach, Syracuse, and points farther west and north, then you are in luck on April 8, 2024, as the Moon’s shadow will sweep over your house, and you get to witness a total eclipse of the Sun in all its beauty from the comfort of your home. For the rest of us there will be no excuse to travel a short distance to observe it, weather permitting. Or we can simply kick back, relax, and wait 375 years!