Witnessing the Ring of Fire Solar Eclipse
Saturday, October 14 will mark a celestial event as the moon passes directly between the Earth and the Sun, casting its shadow upon the Earth’s surface. Those in the path of this phenomenon – primarily in the western United States, Mexico, and parts of Central and South America – will have the opportunity to witness a stunning celestial occurrence: an annular “Ring of Fire” solar eclipse.
This week’s path is particularly significant for the Navajo Nation and Four Corners region, where these astronomical events hold special cultural importance. Citizens of the Navajo Nation, as well as other indigenous peoples, either stay indoors or protect their eyes from the eclipse’s light to honor cultural traditions.
Some indigenous lands, including all Navajo tribal parks and prominent monuments, will be closed to visitors on Saturday. (For our Dine readers, an image of a previous annular eclipse is included below.)
The Unique Glow of an Annular Eclipse
In contrast to a total solar eclipse, where the moon completely covers the Sun, during an annular eclipse, a thin ring of light still emanates around the edges of the moon.
This occurs because an annular eclipse happens when the moon is slightly farther from Earth in its orbit. This extra distance makes the moon appear slightly smaller than the Sun, creating a bright ring of light around its edges, hence the name “Ring of Fire.” These eclipses present a sight that is, to some extent, rare. In this decade, there will be only 12 annular solar eclipses worldwide.
Where to Witness the Eclipse
According to NASA, in the United States, the eclipse will be visible in parts of Oregon, California, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, Texas, Colorado, and some regions of Arizona (weather permitting). The eclipse will commence in Oregon at approximately 9:13 AM PDT and conclude in central time in Texas at 12:03 PM CDT, crossing over Mexico, Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Brazil before passing into the Atlantic Ocean at sunset.
To find out when the eclipse will cover your area in the United States, refer to the map provided below. Only those located within the shaded band will experience the complete encirclement of the eclipse.
Even better, visit NASA’s Eclipse Website, which offers an excellent interactive feature. On their page, you can click anywhere along the eclipse path and obtain precise timing for when the celestial show begins and ends at your exact location.
For those unable to make it to the path of the eclipse, NASA provides a live broadcast. You can view it below.
And if you’ve read this far and are still wondering – “Why and how do solar eclipses occur?” and “When will the next one be?” and “How can I view it without burning my retinas?” – we’ve got you covered:
The Science Behind Solar Eclipses
The answer is simple: sometimes, the moon passes in front of the Sun in the sky. But it’s more complex than that. It takes three celestial alignments to create the shadow.
- It Must Be a New Moon
- A portion of the moon is always illuminated by the Sun, but the illuminated part is never facing Earth. To have a solar eclipse, it must be during the “new moon” phase when the dark side of the moon is directly in front of Earth.
- The Moon Must Cross Earth’s Orbital Plane
- If a solar eclipse were to occur every new moon, why don’t we have one every month? This is because the moon’s orbit is not perfectly aligned with Earth’s. It’s tilted about 5 degrees (no one is entirely sure why the moon is slightly tilted, but it may relate to a colossal impact with a massive object).
- The Moon Must Be Far Enough from Earth
- You may recall this from middle school science: Earth’s orbit around the sun is not a perfect circle. It’s an ellipse.
This is where it will be visible and the path it will take.
In the United States, the maximum darkness of the eclipse will occur where it begins in Oregon at 9:13 AM PDT and will pass through several states, including California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. The path will conclude at sunset over the Atlantic Ocean, passing through portions of Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Colombia, and Brazil.
Have you ever wondered about the sheer magnitude of celestial bodies? Let’s dive into the dimensions of our home planet, the moon, and the sun.
Earth: A Sphere of Wonders
From horizon to horizon, the Earth spans approximately 7,918 miles (12,742 kilometers). It’s our cherished abode, a blue and green marvel nestled in the vastness of space.
The Moon: Earth’s Companion
The moon, though significantly smaller, casts a beguiling shadow on the sun’s face, giving us mesmerizing eclipses. With a diameter of 2,159 miles (3,476 kilometers), it stands as our closest celestial confidant.
Sun: The Blazing Behemoth
In the cosmic tapestry, the sun takes center stage with a staggering diameter of roughly 865,000 miles (1.4 million kilometers). Its radiant energy sustains life on our precious planet.
Safely Witnessing Eclipses: Expert Advice
The Optics of Solar Observation
Experts caution against gazing directly at the blazing sun without the protection of specially designed solar eyewear. Viewing the resplendent sun, particularly during a total eclipse, can pose severe risks to your eyesight.
Shielding Your Vision
Using a solar filter with a specific purpose, whether it’s affixed to a camera lens, telescope, or binoculars, is imperative. Neglecting this precaution may lead to significant ocular harm.
The Right Gear Matters
Specialized solar viewers or secure handheld solar observers are recommended. Remember, regular sunglasses are not a safe option for directly observing the sun.
Sun and Moon: Eclipses Unveiled
Distinguishing Between Solar and Lunar Eclipses
A lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth positions itself between the sun and the moon, casting a shadow on the moon’s surface. This gives the moon a dusky appearance, sometimes tinged with a reddish hue. Lunar eclipses are visible from half of the Earth, making them a widespread celestial event.
Solar Eclipse: The Spectacle of Shadows
A solar eclipse, on the other hand, unfolds when the moon comes in close proximity to the Earth. In this scenario, it completely obstructs the sun, revealing a mesmerizing corona. If the moon is farther away, a fiery ring of sunlight, known as the ‘ring of fire,’ graces the spectacle.
Table of Contents
- What is the “Ring of Fire” Solar Eclipse?
- On Saturday, October 14, a celestial event will occur as the moon passes between the Earth and the Sun, casting a shadow on the Earth’s surface. This will result in a unique phenomenon known as an annular “Ring of Fire” solar eclipse.
- Where will the Eclipse be Visible?
- The eclipse will be primarily visible in the western United States, Mexico, and parts of Central and South America. Specific locations include parts of Oregon, California, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, Texas, Colorado, and some regions of Arizona (weather permitting).
- How is an Annular Eclipse Different from a Total Eclipse?
- In a total solar eclipse, the moon completely covers the Sun. However, during an annular eclipse, a thin ring of light still surrounds the edges of the moon. This happens because the moon is slightly farther from Earth, making it appear slightly smaller than the Sun.
- Why are Some Indigenous Lands Closed to Visitors?
- For the Navajo Nation and other indigenous communities, these celestial events hold special cultural significance. In honor of their traditions, citizens may stay indoors or take precautions to protect their eyes from the eclipse’s light. As a result, some indigenous lands, including Navajo tribal parks and monuments, will be closed to visitors on Saturday.
- How Can I Safely Observe the Eclipse?
- To safely observe the eclipse, it’s crucial to use specially designed solar eyewear or filters. Never gaze directly at the sun without proper protection, as it can be harmful to your eyesight. Additionally, NASA provides live broadcasts for those unable to witness the eclipse in person.