Just in case you haven’t heard, an annular eclipse will dazzle the Pacific Ocean on Sunday (Monday in Asia); beginning at dawn for China and Japan, ending at sunset for western U.S. states — marching from the Oregon and Northern California coast to Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona and Texas.
For U.S. eclipse watchers, the path of “annularity” — or the annular eclipse “ring of fire” — will be seen from locations such as Medford, Oregon; Chico, California; Reno, Nevada; St. George, Utah; Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Lubbock, Texas, according to Spaceweather.com. The whole event will begin in the U.S. from 5:30 p.m. PST and last for around 2 hours. Sadly for eastern U.S. states, the eclipse will occur after sunset, hence the focus on the West Coast.
At no time will the sun be completely blocked by the moon, however. This is an annular solar eclipse, not a total solar eclipse.
As the moon orbits the Earth, its path is slightly elongated. In today’s case, the moon will be slightly further away from the Earth, making its disk appear slightly smaller than the sun’s disk. When the moon drifts in front of the sun, the moon won’t totally block the sun’s light, leaving a bright ring surrounding the lunar disk.
BBC astronomer and Discovery News writer Mark Thompson explains:
So, what can we expect to see from the ground at various locations in the U.S.? Larry Koehn, of ShadowandSubstance.com, has put together a series of animations depicting the eclipse from the states that can view the eclipse, taking the guesswork out of what you can and can’t see.
Although the event is historic, never look directly at the eclipse. Use only certified eclipse glasses or a solar projector. Interestingly, you could also use a leafy tree as a natural eclipse-viewing instrument — just look at the shadows cast by the leaves, you’ll see countless little suns being blocked by the moon.
Images: The eclipse at “annularity” (top). Credit: George Hall/CORBIS. The U.S. eclipse map (bottom). Credit: NASA