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Will your cell phone work during the solar eclipse?

With all of the warnings issued about the total solar eclipse visible over parts of North America on April 8, there is also the concern over phone use while the moon blots out the sun that day.

On April 8, a total solar eclipse will be visible from North America as it makes its path from Texas all the way northeast to Maine. This path of totality indicates when and where the 31.6 million people living along that path are expected to see the eclipse happening, weather pending, according to NBC News.

NASA released a map detailing the trajectory of the 2024 total solar eclipse, with a clear view of the eclipse along the path starting in Mexico and moving across Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine before exiting over the North Atlantic.

Concern over cell phone use stems from the eclipse’s impact on the ionosphere, or Earth’s upper atmosphere. When the ionosphere sees a reduction in solar radiation in Earth’s atmosphere, as it will during the eclipse, there could be changes to radio communications and navigation systems, according to NASA.

Decreased ionization, a cooling of the ionosphere and electron density can all change how radio waves move through the atmosphere and affect shortwave and satellite communication systems, NASA said. As temporarily disruptive as they are, solar eclipses give researchers a chance to study the ionosphere and its dynamics during such an event, the agency continued. But the effects during an eclipse are temporary.

“The altered ionospheric conditions during an eclipse can change how radio waves propagate through the ionosphere,” NASA said. “This can cause signal fading, absorption, and refraction, affecting shortwave and satellite communication systems… The ionosphere typically returns to its normal state after the eclipse event is over, and solar radiation levels return to normal.”

In short, cell phones should not see a severe impact caused by the eclipse and any impact should be brief.

Other warnings on cell phone use during the eclipse mainly stem from concerns over infrastructure and the volume of people gathering along the path of totality to see the eclipse. Heavy traffic, along with the increased risk of travel-related deaths, could hamper phone usage with so many people on the phone on April 8.

In a March 21 statement, the New York State Police warned that there could be strains on local infrastructure as a result of the massive crowds that could gather to look up at the celestial event.

“Our goal is to minimize any adverse effects associated with the large influx of visitors to the local area,” the statement from Troop E read. “This approach is based on the lessons learned from the 2017 solar eclipse, where some regions experienced a 100% increase in their population in the days leading up to and during the eclipse.”

While people can expect disruption on travel routes and stranded motorists, State Police also warned of cell phone service issues and networks “may be overloaded by high volume.”

This risk was followed by the recommendation to have phones charged and bring chargers with you, the statement read.



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