'Hybrid' Solar Eclipse to Dazzle on Sunday

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The moon will blot out the sun Sunday (Nov. 3) in an eclipse that will be visible from eastern North America to the Middle East.

You've probably always heard that it's not safe to look at the sun. This week Kasey-Dee Gardner finds out why our eyes are naturally sensitive to sun light.

Sunday's celestial event is a relatively rare occurrence known as a hybrid solar eclipse. It will begin as an annular or "ring of fire" eclipse along the path of totality, then shift to a total eclipse as the moon's shadow sweeps across our planet.

PHOTOS: 2012 Annular Solar Eclipse Photos From Our Readers

What you'll observe depends on where you live. Skywatchers in the eastern United States, northeastern South America, southern Europe, the Middle East and most of Africa will be treated to a partial solar eclipse, while people along the path of totality in central Africa will see the sun totally obscured by Earth's nearest neighbor for a few dramatic moments.

If you live in eastern North America, you'll have to get up early to enjoy the show. The partial eclipse will be visible at sunrise — about 6:30 a.m. local time — and last for about 45 minutes, experts say. Viewers in Boston and New York will see the sun more than 50 percent covered by the moon, while our star will appear 47 percent obscured from Miami and Washington, D.C. [Solar Eclipses: An Observer's Guide (Infographic)]

ANALYSIS: Curiosity Drives Itself, Captures Eclipse

All of the action in this part of the world will be occurring low in the sky, less than 8 degrees from the east-southeast horizon. (Your fist held at arm's length measures about 10 degrees.) So you'll want to find a spot that affords a good look at the horizon, without any buildings or hills blocking the view.

The path of totality, meanwhile, starts in the Atlantic Ocean off the eastern U.S. and runs through Gabon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and several other African nations before petering out in southern Ethiopia and Somalia around sunset.

Warning: If you are planning to watch Sunday's solar eclipse in person, be extremely careful. Never look directly at the sun, either with the naked eye or through telescopes or binoculars without proper filters. To safely view solar eclipses, you can buy special solar filters or No. 14 welder's glass to wear over your eyes. Standard sunglasses will NOT provide sufficient protection.

You can also build a simple pinhole camera, or look at the shadows filtering onto the ground through the leaves on a tree. (The spaces between leaves often create many natural pinholes).

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