May 20, 2012

Ring of Fire: Eclipse 2012

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

Later today an annular solar eclipse will be visible in parts of the US for the first time in nearly 18 years. The most complete view will be on the West Coast.

The western United States and eastern Asia will be treated this weekend to a rare solar spectacle when the moon slides across the sun, creating a “ring of fire.”

. . .

The solar spectacle will first be seen in eastern Asia around dawn Monday, local time. Weather permitting, millions of early risers in southern China, northern Taiwan and southeast Japan will be able to catch the ring eclipse.

Then, the late day sun (on Sunday in the U.S.) will transform into a glowing ring in southwest Oregon, Northern California, central Nevada, southern Utah, northern Arizona and New Mexico and finally the Texas Panhandle.

The Huffington Post has more on what, how, and where, including a handy chart of viewing times and locations.

As the moon revolves aroundEarth, it passes between our planet and the sun once every 29.5 days. Most of the time,the moon zips either above or below the sun, and no eclipse occurs. [Video: How to View the May 20 Solar Eclipse]

But if the moon is close to one of its orbitalnodes— the points where the orbits of Earth and the moon cross — the moon will pass directly in front of the sun and block its light. If the moon is also close to apogee,the point that marks its farthest distance from the Earth, it will not completely cover the sun, and we get an annular eclipse.

"Annular" comes from the Latin word annulus (ring) and refers to the fact that a ring of sun shines all around the moon.

They've also posted interactive maps and other viewing options. They're all kindsa into it at HuffPo. Good for them!

NASA has a list of when and where the can be seen, even in those locations outside the path of annularity. Check out the map below and click the yellow pins to see when the eclipse will be visible in that location, and for even more locations, click over to NASA's comprehensive list. (Hint: Here's a UTC time conversion table.)

. . .

If you're east of the Mississippi River, don't worry -- the Slooh Space Camera is broadcasting the event live, using telescope feeds from Japan, California, Arizona and New Mexico. Slooh's live feed begins at 5:30 p.m. EDT on Sunday.

And remember, kids. Never look directly at the sun. Not even during an eclipse.

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