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Waco anticipates over 100,000 spectators for April's total solar eclipse

Eclipse Over Texas will take place on Baylor University's Touchdown Alley.
Eclipse Over Texas
Eclipse Over Texas will take place on Baylor University's Touchdown Alley.

The Eclipse Over Texas event in Waco, featuring renowned Lowell Observatory astronomers and the Discovery Channel, expects to draw more than 100,000 visitors for a once-in-a-lifetime celestial experience.

Waco is set to be one of the best places to view the April 8, 2024 total solar eclipse; the city is expected to get four minutes and 14 seconds of totality, when the moon fully blocks the sun.

The Eclipse Over Texas event hosted by the city of Waco, Discovery Channel, Lowell Observatory and Baylor University, will provide attendees from all over the world a chance to watch the eclipse on Baylor’s campus. There will be telescopes, educational activities, science programs and more.

CARLA PENDEGRAFT: “Many people say this is one of the most transformative experiences of their life.”

Carla Pendegraft, the Assistant Director of Tourism for Waco, has been a part of the planning committee for the event for the last two years.

She estimates over 100,000 people will travel to the heart of Texas to see the eclipse.

CARLA PENDEGRAFT: “My astronomer friends always say the same thing, they would not cross the road for a partial eclipse. They would cross the world for a total.”

And many are.

DR. TYLER RICHEY-YOWELL: “I’m gonna be speaking at this event about eclipses of the sun and what we can learn from those, and also eclipses of planets around other stars and what we can learn from those.” 

Post-doctoral Fellow, Dr. Tyler Richey-Yowell is one of multiple scientists from Lowell Observatory in Arizona coming to Waco for the eclipse. As a researcher, she studies star and planet interactions. The eclipse, she says, provides a unique opportunity for astronomers to study the sun.

DR. TYLER RICHEY-YOWELL:“Something that astronomers in the past have used eclipses of the sun to understand is how much UV and X-ray is coming from our sun.”

Ultraviolet radiation and X-rays come from the sun's corona, which is the outermost layer of the sun’s atmosphere. The corona is made up of plasma, and is usually hidden from our view, over-shined by the bright surface of the sun.

But during a total solar eclipse, the moon blocks light from the sun's surface, allowing for the corona to become visible.

DR. TYLER RICHEY-YOWELL: “That’s that beautiful kind of wispiness you’ll see all around the edges.”

Extreme exposure of UV and X-rays from a star's corona can severely damage surrounding planets. By understanding how UV and X-rays work on the sun, astronomers are able to apply that knowledge to other stars to determine if life on exoplanets is possible.

DR. TYLER RICHEY-YOWELL: “That’s actually what the James Webb space telescope is using. They’re essentially looking at these eclipses of planets around other stars to go and understand what features are on other planets out there.”

Richey-Yowell along with three other scientists will give space presentations at Eclipse Over Texas. Event organizers hope the celestial experience will make visitors, specifically young visitors, excited about science.

CARLA PENDEGRAFT: “We’re really looking at this as an educational event and we’re hoping, I think everybody is hoping, that there will be young people who get interested in science and maybe get bitten by that bug where they say, ‘this is gonna be my life and my career.’”

With only a little over two months left until the eclipse, the city of Waco is encouraging visitors to secure their tickets and a place to stay. Many hotel rooms are already fully booked, but Pendegraft says it isn’t too late to make reservations.

CARLA PENDEGRAFT: “Some of the inventory is just becoming available, so if you’ve held back or you have friends that are thinking about coming in, they can still get a hotel room.”

The Waco Convention and Visitors Bureau has put together a website for those looking for lodging at Prices currently range from $300 to $1,000.

Tickets for Eclipse Over Texas can be purchased online at