Why I'm going to Missouri near the centerline for the solar eclipse on April 8

brick-faced buildings line a small town street
Cape Girardeau, Missouri on May 6, 2020. (Image credit: larrybraunphotography.com/Getty Images)

The total solar eclipse on April 8 is just around the corner.

After spending months researching different locations to see the total solar eclipse, I've landed on Cape Girardeau, Missouri. That's because the town of some 40,000 people is close to the centerline, which refers to the middle of the path the moon's shadow will take as it crosses North America. This location therefore doesn't just lie within the path of totality, but in a spot that allows eclipse-chasers to get 4 minutes and 6 seconds of the totality experience.

Nearly seven years ago, I witnessed the Aug. 21, 2017 total solar eclipse from Franklin, North Carolina, and got to experience around 2 minutes and 30 seconds of totality.

This time, I want more.

Related: How long will April's total solar eclipse last?

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Celestron EclipSmart Solar Eclipse Glasses on a white background

(Image credit: B&H)

Available in a handy four-pack to kit out the whole family, these Celestron EclipSmart Solar Eclipse Glasses will keep you well protected while you view the eclipse. And don't miss our full guide to the best solar eclipse glasses and the best solar viewing kits to make the most of your experience.

I likely won't get to experience another total solar eclipse for a few more decades — at least without significant travel. In 2045, a total eclipse will cross the United States again, traveling over California, the American desert, the Midwest and several states in the Deep South and Gulf region.

So, this year, I'm driving about 8 hours to Cape Girardeau to maximize my totality time. The town is holding several large block parties that are perfect for those witnessing the eclipse with children (as I will be), including the VisitCape Solar Eclipse Watch Party at the Cape Girardeau Sportsplex. The event will feature food trucks, a DJ, activities for kids — and places to escape the sun without the moon's help if needed.

Cape Girardeau is expecting quite a few visitors for the eclipse this year, although not as many as some larger cities like Dallas are planning for. "We're expecting at least 17,000 to 20,000 people, and that's just taking it from the research that was done back in 2017," said Brenda Newbern, executive director of the Cape Girardeau Convention and Visitors Bureau, in a phone call with Space.com.

"It'll probably be about 20,000 people because you have to also remember that the line of totality across the United States does come closer to a lot of locations where people can travel to," Newbern added. "We are pretty much right on the line to get the most possible you know viewing time. So, that's why most eclipse enthusiasts are coming here."

Path of totality over Arkansas, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Illinois. Click the upper right corner to enlarge. (Image credit: Michael Zeiler/GreatAmericanEclipse.com)

Weather permitting, Cape Girardeau should offer a great view of the eclipse, with the Mississippi River lying to the southeast just below where the sun will be positioned. I'll be shooting the total solar eclipse with a Unistellar Odyssey Pro smart telescope, so the 4 minutes and 6 seconds of totality should hopefully lead to some incredible photography.

After the eclipse, Cape Girardeau's mural-filled downtown and riverfront areas will offer eclipse-chasers a place to unwind, reflect on the day and perhaps plan their next eclipse trip.

See you in Missouri!

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Brett Tingley
Managing Editor, Space.com

Brett is curious about emerging aerospace technologies, alternative launch concepts, military space developments and uncrewed aircraft systems. Brett's work has appeared on Scientific American, The War Zone, Popular Science, the History Channel, Science Discovery and more. Brett has English degrees from Clemson University and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. In his free time, Brett enjoys skywatching throughout the dark skies of the Appalachian mountains.