Book Review: Atlas of Solar Eclipses 2020 to 2045

Love solar eclipses? It’s the main question on everyone’s mind post-totality, once the all-too-brief darkness gives way back to light of day…

When’s the next total solar eclipse?

Anyone who has stood in the shadow of the Moon during totality knows the thrill of a total solar eclipse. Now, there’s great new atlas for planning your next great eclipse-chasing adventure. The Atlas of Solar Eclipses 2020 to 2045 by eclipse-chaser and cartographer Michael Zeiler and Michael E. Bakich is an indispensable astronomical resource.

This guide covers every solar eclipse out to 2045, starting with this weekend’s annular eclipse across southern Asia on June 21, 2020, all the way out to the total solar eclipse of August 12, 2045 crossing North America, the Caribbean and South America.

A look inside the Atlas of Solar Eclipses.

The book also covers the hows and whys of eclipses, including terminology, eclipse phenomena to watch for, and most importantly, eye safety. It’s also great to see often arcane concepts such as the saros series and cycles of eclipses laid out in an easy to understand, graphic format.

The book follows the path of totality across the terrain and out over the oceans of the Earth, giving handy tips for planning the best place to observe not only in terms of duration of totality, but also tips for including natural landmarks in the scene. I wonder how many political boundaries depicted on the maps will change by 2045?

Careful planning allowed us to capture this ‘partial eclipse sunrise’ over the Vehicle Assembly Building in 2013. Credit: Dave Dickinson.

One of the best aspects of the book are Zeiler’s detailed and thorough maps. The maps are clear, but concise and easy to read, showing gradations for eclipse paths and time durations for total and partial phases. We’ve done map editing in the past, and can attest to just how tricky it is to strike a balance between clarity and precision. And the last thing you’d want to do as an eclipse map maker is send someone accidentally to a site just outside of the path of totality (this actually did happen to an unnamed science writer back in the 1970s!)

Eclipses come in two flavors: lunar and solar, and solar eclipses are further sub-divided down into partial, total, annular, hybrid (where the eclipse is annular along one segment of the track, and total along another). The Atlas of Solar Eclipses deals with partial, total and annular solar eclipses and hybrids of the two, though it would be neat to see an exhaustive compendium combining lunar eclipses as well. Total lunar eclipses are rather common and easy to catch: you just have to be on the correct Moonward-facing side of the Earth to witness one. To stand in the path of totality, however, generally involves travel, often to remote locales. Eclipse travel really makes you realize just how much of our own planet is still wild and remote.

The blow-by-blow breakdown sections for each eclipse also shows key elements, such as the celestial sky lineup during the eclipse and other specific factors. And hey, this book is out in time to cover the next big total solar eclipse crossing North America on April 8th 2024. I’m torn for this one, as it crosses over my hometown of Mapleton, Maine… but weather prospects for April favor Mexico and Texas.

Where will you be on April 8th, 2024? Credit: Michael Zeiler

Now, I’ll just have to get a new copy of the Atlas of Solar Eclipses for the last half of the 21st century, come 2046. Let’s see, by then, I’ll be…

Read our original sci-fi tales of far-flung eclipses in space and time and more.