Sunday, May 20, 2012

Burning Ring of Fire: US Prepares for Annular Eclipse

Hundreds of thousands of people are planning on having parties to celebrate today's annular solar eclipse, which will be viewable across a large section of the United States.

Dubbed "The Ring of Fire" eclipse due to the fiery, visible corona, this will be the first solar eclipse viewable in the United States in eighteen years. The moon will begin slowly chipping away at the solar disk starting at approximately 8:00PM Eastern Time this afternoon.

The eclipse will be visible on a path starting in northwestern Texas through New Mexico, northeastern Arizona, southern Utah, Nevada, northern California and southwestern Oregon. Most observers will witness a partial solar eclipse, due to the moon's position between the Earth and sun. Skywatcher along a roughly 200-mile-wide track, however, will witness a spectacular "Ring of Fire," in which only a thin ring of the sun's disk remains uncovered.

As the sun continues along its orbit, the eclipse will then be visible over the North Pacific, including southern Japan and southern China on the morning of May 21.

Experts caution that you should never gaze directly at the sun without appropriate eye protection, even when the solar disk is almost completely blocked by the moon during an annular eclipse. You can safely look at the sun through specially designed eclipse-viewing glasses, or through welder's glass.

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