TikTok video falsely claims 2024 solar eclipse will last three days

  • Published on March 27, 2024 at 14:49
  • Updated on March 28, 2024 at 08:45
  • 3 min read
  • By Mary KULUNDU, AFP Kenya
As North America gears up to witness a total solar eclipse on April 8, 2024, a TikTok video claiming the earth will be thrown into complete blackness for three to five days is circulating online, attracting thousands of shares and views. However, the claim is false; scientists have calculated that the duration of the eclipse will last a maximum of 4 minutes and 28 seconds. 

“Three days of darkness is nearly upon us. You ready? (sic)” reads the caption of the TikTok video reshared as a Facebook reel.

The narrator in the video claims that there will be no sunlight or moonlight on Earth’s surface during the celestial event, “expected to last seventy-two hours or five days”.

“Photons and electromagnetic particles that travel at the speed of light and will act as a barrier or temporary shield around the earth, preventing the light of the sun or the stars from passing through it,” the narrator says.

The clip, shared more than 30,000 times, goes on to warn the public against travelling during this period for safety reasons, adding that “all sunlight will be blocked and solar panels will not generate energy”.

A screenshot of the false Facebook reel, taken on March 27, 2024

The same claim was repeated in other posts on Facebook and TikTok. A similar claim was shared in the Philippines, where false posts showed images from past solar eclipse events such as here, here and here

Total solar eclipse

On April 8, 2024, a total solar eclipse will cross North America, passing over Mexico, the United States and Canada, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

This is contrary to the claim in the posts saying that the whole planet will be affected.

Robert Simcoe, the director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for Astrophysics and Space Research, told AFP Fact Check that even during a total solar eclipse, “the sky never becomes pitch black”.

“The central yellow disk of the sun is blocked by the moon during an eclipse, but the light does not go out completely… the sensation is more like experiencing twilight during the day,” Simcoe said.

Professor John Clarke of the Department of Astronomy and Center for Space Physics at Boston University confirmed that the shadow is not big enough to cover the whole of Earth.

“This shadow is not large, just a couple hundred kilometres, so it only affects one local region at a time,” Clarke told AFP Fact Check.

According to NASA (archived here), the maximum possible duration of the upcoming total solar eclipse will be 4 minutes and 28 seconds near Torreón in Mexico.

“Most places along the centerline (path of totality) will see a totality duration between 3.5 and four minutes,” NASA notes on its website.

Experts also dismissed the warnings in the posts cautioning people to stay at home and avoid travelling.

Clarke said in the regions crossed by the eclipse, the output of solar panels will only decrease for a couple of hours.

However, to avoid eye damage while viewing the solar eclipse, NASA advises the public to use solar viewing glasses or a properly equipped telescope (archived here).

Debunk updated to add claims from Philippines
March 28, 2024 Debunk updated to add claims from Philippines

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