When is the next solar eclipse?

The diamond-ring effect occurred at the beginning and end of totality during a total solar eclipse.
The diamond-ring effect occurred at the beginning and end of totality during a total solar eclipse. (Image credit: NASA/Carla Thomas)

One of the most significant celestial events is coming to Europe in 2026 — a total solar eclipse.

Total solar eclipses are uncommon and dynamic events, resulting in one of nature's most spectacular sights. Here's everything you need to know about the next eclipse.

When is the next total solar eclipse?

The next total solar eclipse will occur on Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2026, when it will be possible to experience darkness in the daytime and briefly see the sun's corona — or outermost atmosphere — with the naked eye. The total eclipse will be visible from parts of Greenland, Iceland, Spain and a small sliver of Russia. Exactly what time of day it happens depends on where the observer will be watching from.

Related: Top total solar eclipses to look out for over the next decade

What is the eclipse's path of totality?

The 2026 total solar eclipse will be visible from Russia, Greenland, Iceland and Spain. (Image credit: National Solar Observatory)

"Totality" is the name for the moment when the sun appears completely obscured by the moon. The path of totality is the narrow zone from which totality is visible on Earth. Technically, this path is just the movement of the moon's shadow across the world —  specifically, the places where the moon's umbra, the darkest central part of its shadow, is projected across the Earth's surface. To experience totality, you must be within this zone.

On Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2026, the eclipse's 182-mile-wide (293 kilometers) path of totality will take around 96 minutes to cross the planet, beginning at the northern tip of Russia, then passing over parts of Greenland, Iceland and Spain, according to Space.com. The maximum duration of totality will be 2 minutes, 18 seconds, depeding on the viewer's location.

When was the last total solar eclipse?

The moon's shadow passes over North America on April 8, 2024. (Image credit: NOAA/CIRA/RAMMSB)

The last total solar eclipse passed over North America on April 8, 2024. The eclipse was visible from parts of Mexico, Canada and 15 U.S. states. 

With the maximum duration of totality lasting 4 minutes and 27 seconds, observers took some truly stunning photos of the rare total eclipse. Live Science editor Brandon Specktor observed totality from Ontario, Canada, where he witnessed some truly strange phenomena, including changing colors, dropping temperatures and odd animal behavior.

What is a total solar eclipse?

A solar eclipse over the Pacific Ocean at sunset, with the "diamond ring" feature visible. (Image credit: Photo by Roger Ressmeyer/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)

A total solar eclipse is the result of a remarkable coincidence. The moon's apparent size in our sky is about the same as the apparent size of the sun; the sun is 400 times larger than the moon, but also about 400 times farther away. A New Moon — the lunar phase that occurs when the moon moves between Earth and the sun — can block the sun during two short "eclipse seasons" each year. If the moon blocks only some of the sun, we see a partial solar eclipse. If the moon eclipses the sun while slightly farther from Earth, it's an annular solar eclipse (often called a "ring of fire"). Only when the moon perfectly blocks the sun can a total solar eclipse result.

How often do total solar eclipses occur?

Every year, there are at least two solar eclipses of some kind, but there can be as many as five. Mostly, they're partial solar eclipses, but total solar eclipses are not rare. On average, a total solar eclipse occurs about once every 18 months somewhere on Earth. However, you'd have to wait an average of 375 years to see two total eclipses from one place, according to eclipse expert and ex-NASA eclipse calculator Fred Espenak.

Related: How often do solar eclipses occur?

How long does a total solar eclipse last?

The full duration of a total solar eclipse — starting from when the moon begins to eclipse the sun, before reaching totality and finally moving away again — takes about three hours. However, totality itself is very short. It lasts from a single second to a maximum of 7.5 minutes, according to timeanddate.com. Those closer to the center of the path of totality will experience a longer duration.

Related: What's the longest solar eclipse in history?

Solar eclipses should be viewed through protective glasses. (Image credit: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani/HQ)

Can you look at a total eclipse?

You MUST use proper eye protection — such as high-quality eclipse glasses — to look at the eclipse's partial phases on either side of totality; failure to do so could result in serious eye damage.

However, it is perfectly safe to look at the eclipse with the naked eye during totality, if you are within the path. That is the very reason why a total solar eclipse is so special.

Editor's note: This article was updated on April 16, to add new information following the completion of the April 8 total solar eclipse.

Live Science contributor

Jamie Carter is a freelance journalist and regular Live Science contributor based in Cardiff, U.K. He is the author of A Stargazing Program For Beginners and lectures on astronomy and the natural world. Jamie regularly writes for Space.com, TechRadar.com, Forbes Science, BBC Wildlife magazine and Scientific American, and many others. He edits WhenIsTheNextEclipse.com.