Sunday, April 7, 2024

Eclipse on April 8

Business of Space

Americans Are Rushing to See a Rare US Solar Eclipse on April 8

Most Americans in the continental US won’t get another glimpse of this life-size science experiment until 2045.

The City of Dripping Springs, Texas is preparing for the solar eclipse with a set of larger than life glasses on display at Veterans Memorial Park.Photographer: Suzanne Cordeiro/AFP

Hi, it’s Loren in Austin. Welcome to Business of Space, Bloomberg’s weekly newsletter delivering the inside stories of investments beyond Earth, from satellite networks to moon landings. If you’re looking for an excuse to take a break from work or class on April 8, the best show in the US is free to all and won’t come around again for years. But before we get to that...

Three things you need to know today:

• SpaceX alleges Italy’s largest phone carrier is obstructing Starlink.
• Musk boosts headcount by 86% at biggest site of his Texas Empire.
• US towns in solar eclipse path are eager for economic windfall.

The Great American Eclipse

Sure, your news feeds may be inundated with eclipse content. You may even be growing tired of friends bragging about travel plans to watch the total solar eclipse wash over much of the US heartland on April 8, where some 32 million Americans live.

But I’m here to tell you: It’s going to live up to the hype.

First some basic facts: Eclipses are all about cosmic alignment. The moon will pass directly between the Earth and the sun, casting a shadow on the ground along what is known as the “path of totality,” that will travel from west to east as the Earth rotates. For those located within the path, the sun will be fully blocked anywhere from a few seconds to up to four minutes, though viewers will be able to see the elusive and ethereal atmosphere of the sun, known as the corona, emanating from the eclipse like strands of flowing hair. (Reminder: Follow safety protocols for viewing).

Credit: Denise Lu/Bloomberg

The mere existence of an eclipse is a matter of astronomical fate.

“It just so happens that our moon is at the right size and distance to cause this effect here on Earth,” says Pam Melroy, NASA’s deputy administrator and a former astronaut. If any other variable was off, the moon would not cover the sun the way it does.

A selection of cities where the total solar eclipse in April will be visible.Source: NASA. Credit: Denise Lu/Bloomberg

And as much as you may understand the science, there’s something both magical and terrifying about watching it with your own eyes.

During the last such eclipse in the US in 2017, I watched from a park in Nashville. Bright sunshine gave way to an eerie twilight within minutes. The sun was replaced by a black dot surrounded by a ring of fire — the corona, swirling outward. A chill blanketed the scene.

As the Earth’s lone external heat source was hidden behind the moon, the animals in the park became confused. The insect chirps that usually pop up around dusk started to sound. The birds went silent. While most people oohed and aahed at the sight, at one point I heard a woman behind me scream with fear. I couldn’t blame her; every sensation in my body told me that this was abnormal.

Knowing the physics left me even more awestruck: You feel like the world is ending but your mind knows it’s not.

Ever since that moment, I knew I was hooked. I had to witness another one, which is why I’m headed out into hill country outside Austin next week. Of course, the one villain that could dampen everyone’s plans is cloud cover, and forecasts do have clouds on the menu along the path. Unfortunately, that part is out of our control.

I’ll be in good company next week, though: The Federal Highway Administration has issued warnings to drivers to get to their viewing locations early, as traffic congestion is expected to be at an all-time high. Hotel occupancy in major cities along the path like Dallas, Cleveland, and Buffalo are nearing full capacity and would-be eclipse tourists are clamoring for flights.

Note: Change is for searches from Jan. 13, 2023 to Jan. 12, 2024 for travel between April 5 and April 10, 2024, compared to searches from Jan. 13, 2022 to Jan. 12, 2023 for travel between April 5 and April 10, 2023. Source: Kayak. Credit: Denise Lu/Bloomberg

Read more: Eclipse Boomtowns Await Their Moment in the (Blocked) Sun

It makes sense. There’s a lot of turmoil on Earth right now with two major wars, economic uncertainty and an upcoming US presidential election that has a lot of people at odds. The biggest thing we all have in common is that we share this one Earth and the sky over our heads.

After all, most Americans in the lower 48 won’t get another glimpse of this life-size science experiment until 2045.—Loren Grush

Rocket launch record

With 221 orbital launches conducted globally, 2023 was a record year, according to a new report from analytics firm BryceTech. US-based firms SpaceX, Rocket Lab, United Launch Alliance and others conducted 114 launches to Earth orbit, breaking the previous record for a single country (108 by the Soviet Union in 1982), BryceTech said.

Giant leap

Does thinking about the solar eclipse make you feel small? Check out the James Webb Space Telescope’s images from the infancy of our universe.

What we’re reading

The search for extraterrestrial life is targeting Jupiter’s icy moon Europa, the MIT Technology Review wrote.

While Earth enjoys an eclipse, a NASA Probe is ready to “touch the sun,” the The Washington Post reported.

Astronomers have gotten better at tracking the motions of stars beyond the solar system. But that has made it tougher to predict Earth’s future and reconstruct its past, The New York Times wrote.

In our orbit

April 5-6: A Russian Soyuz capsule is slated to depart the International Space Station and head back to Earth, returning a crew of three back from space.

April 8: The Great American Eclipse passes across the United States.

April 8-11: The 39th annual Space Symposium kicks off in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

April 9: The final flight of United Launch Alliance’s Delta IV Heavy rocket is tentatively rescheduled for 12:53 p.m. EDT from Florida.

Talk to us

Please send us ideas, tips and questions. As always, you can reach Bloomberg’s global business of space editor, Eric Johnson, at (or via Signal). If you don’t receive this newsletter, you should sign up here.

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