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Senate pages wearing eclipse glasses view the solar eclipse in front of the U.S. Senate on Capitol Hill on April 8, 2024, in Washington. (AP) Senate pages wearing eclipse glasses view the solar eclipse in front of the U.S. Senate on Capitol Hill on April 8, 2024, in Washington. (AP)

Senate pages wearing eclipse glasses view the solar eclipse in front of the U.S. Senate on Capitol Hill on April 8, 2024, in Washington. (AP)

Jeff Cercone
By Jeff Cercone April 10, 2024

Chemtrails didn’t cover sky during solar eclipse. They don’t exist.

If Your Time is short

  • Chemtrails are not real, multiple government agencies and scientists say. They are a conspiracy theory that alleges condensation trails behind aircraft are part of a secret program to poison the atmosphere.

  • There was increased air traffic the week of the solar eclipse because of spring break travel and tourists headed to the path of totality.

  • Our mission: Help you be an informed participant in democracy. Learn more.

Millions of people saw the April 8 total solar eclipse that raced across North America as a chance to view a rare celestial event that won’t be visible again in the continental U.S. for two decades.

One social media user, however, saw a broader purpose.

"I don’t know who planned this. But this was a brilliant wake up strategy," an April 8 Facebook post’s caption said. It continued, "And this will be the first time so many look up and realize what chemtraiIs are. The main path so far is full of ChemtraiIs. It's all over tiktok. People are PISSED." 

The post was flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

The post shared a photo of white streaks across a sunlit sky — presumably the evidence of chemtrails — but it doesn’t say where or when it was taken.

But the photo doesn’t show chemtrails. We know that because they don’t exist.

(Facebook screenshot)

As PolitiFact has reported numerous times, chemtrails are a conspiracy theory that the condensation trails left behind aircraft are part of a secret program by the government or others to poison the atmosphere with toxic chemicals for various, nefarious reasons.

PolitiFact has also debunked numerous social media claims about the solar eclipse, including claims that NASA was shooting rockets at three moons and that state and local governments were preparing for a catastrophic event that day.

Featured Fact-check

@politifact They* don’t want you to know this** about the April 8 solar eclipse! (*Misinformers) (**That these eclipse claims are baseless and innaccurate.) #factcheck #eclipse #solareclipse #misinfomation #fyp #learnontiktok ♬ Spooky, quiet, scary atmosphere piano songs - Skittlegirl Sound

The conspiracy theory about chemtrails was amplified recently when the Tennessee Senate passed a bill prohibiting the release of chemicals into the state’s atmosphere to affect the weather, a concept known as geoengineering. The bill didn’t mention chemtrails, but some lawmakers and witnesses referred directly or indirectly to them, PolitiFact reported. The Washington Post reported that many chemtrail believers are confusing the theory with geoengineering.

Multiple government agencies and scientists say chemtrails don't exist. Contrails — shorthand for condensation trails, the white streaks seen in the Facebook photo and routinely seen in the sky — do exist and are harmless. 

The National Weather Service said the condensation trails left behind by passing jets form when hot, humid air from the jet exhaust mixes with cooler atmospheric air. Contrails are not a recent phenomenon and have been visible since the existence of jet planes, the agency said.

The U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency also said contrails pose no threat to humans’ health.

It’s possible the Facebook post creator saw an increase in contrails during the eclipse because there was increased air traffic. The Federal Aviation Administration was expecting a busy week because of spring break travel and the eclipse, the agency said in a March 27 news release.

"Travelers flying along the eclipse path may encounter limited parking and potential delays at airports due to the high volume of aircraft and drones attempting to witness the total solar eclipse," the FAA said.

CNBC reported that high demand from tourists flocking to the path of totality jammed smaller airports, briefly causing the FAA to briefly halt some flights ahead of the event. Delta Air Lines sold two special eclipse viewing flights, and several large airlines had flights that coincided with the path of totality.

Kelly Korreck, NASA's program manager for the solar eclipse, speculated that more contrails might have been visible because the eclipse's path crossed several major cities and airports, a spokesperson told PolitiFact. In addition, Korreck said, people were looking up at the sky more frequently than usual and noticing them.

NASA, meanwhile, sent three WB-57 jet planes with scientific instruments to take measurements along the eclipse’s path.

Whatever the creator of the Facebook post and others saw in the sky during the solar eclipse weren’t chemtrails. They don’t exist, and the claim is Pants on Fire!

Our Sources

Facebook post, April 8, 2024

National Weather Service, What is a contrail and how does it form?, accessed April 9, 2024

U.S. Air Force, Contrail Facts from the U.S. Air Force, July 2014

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, "Aircraft Contrails Fact Sheet," September 2012

PolitiFact, A Tennessee bill doesn’t prove ‘chemtrails’ are real, March 27, 2024

The Washington Post, GOP lawmakers are fueling a conspiracy theory without mentioning ‘chemtrails’, March 27, 2024

Harvard University, Chemtrails Conspiracy Theory | The Keith Group, accessed April 9, 2024

NASA, Scientists Pursue the Total Solar Eclipse with NASA Jet Planes, April 3, 2024

NASA spokesperson, email exchange, April 10, 2024

Federal Aviation Administration, FAA Ready for Spring Break Peak Travel and ‘The Great North American Eclipse’, March 27, 2024

The Associated Press, Total solar eclipse wows North America. Clouds part just in time for most, April 9, 2024

CNBC, Eclipse flights swarm airports: ‘We had to close the runway to park planes’, April 8, 2024

Airways Magazine, Five US airlines overlapping April 8's total eclipse path, April 3, 2024

The Washington Post, Seeing the total eclipse from 33,000 feet, April 8, 2024

CBS News, When is the next total solar eclipse in the U.S.? See the paths for the 2044 and 2045 events, April 9, 2024

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Chemtrails didn’t cover sky during solar eclipse. They don’t exist.

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