On April 8, 2024, a total solar eclipse will be visible from Mexico to Canada, crossing the US from Texas to Maine. The spectacular event is bound to attract visitors to the path of totality, the long thin region that will witness the Sun being completely shadowed by the Moon.
The team at the GreatAmericanEclipse website has crunched the numbers of where in the US is most likely to see the biggest assembly of people at this time. The eclipse will start on the West Coast of Mexico where the path of totality will be about 200 kilometers (124 miles) across, shrinking to 160 kilometers (100 miles) by the time it gets to Newfoundland. In the US alone, there will be 31 million people already living in the path of totality. If you are not among these lottery winners, you might consider traveling if the drive is fairly short.
The model predicts that between 931,000 to 3,725,000 people are likely to travel into the path of totality by car. Almost one-third of them will be going to Texas, which has several major cities very near or within the path of totality. So there are major roads that crisscross the path, as well as proximity to the airports in case, though this analysis was based on driving.
Following Texas, the states that are expected to receive the highest influx of driving visitors are Indiana, Ohio, and New York. These are also the states with the highest fraction of people already living in the path of totality. The state with the smallest number of people, but still in the path of totality, is Tennessee, with 80.
The team made sensible guesses about visitors by assuming an upper limit of 2 percent of people living within 322 kilometers (200 miles) would be willing to drive to the eclipse site, and then halving the estimate every extra 200 miles, across the contiguous United States. Factors that they also considered is that the eclipse is on a Monday, making it difficult for many people to take the trip. Clearly, astronomical events care little about the needs of capitalism.
The estimates are not written in stone and are subject to changes, chief among them is the weather forecast. The team has weighted certain areas such as Texas as more likely to be visited than others but things might change between now and then.
If you fancy seeing the eclipse, you better start planning – and please wear appropriate eyewear for it.