2012 05 20 – Annular/partial Solar Eclipse

Annular solar eclipse
Photo: NASA Goodard Space Flight Center

It’s time to make the last minute preparations for the annular eclipse tonight/early morning (depending on your location). My location should allow me to see a partial eclipse just before sunset. Traveling 6 hours further west, I would have had a chance to view the annular eclipse, which would certainly be a site to see! Here’s hoping my friends in the path of the annular eclipse has clear skies and the opportunity to witness it first hand. As for me, I’ll settle this time on a partial solar eclipse with my h-alpha solar telescope and a pair of solar glasses.

I plan on doing a set of full disk h-alpha sketches prior to the eclipse and then use them as a template to shade in the Moon as it passes between Earth and the Sun. Of course, this will only work if the clouds stay at bay and I can find a low horizon to view from.

An annular eclipse occurs when the Moon passes in front of the Sun near apogee, the furthest distance in its orbit around Earth. Because of its distance, it is smaller compared to the apparent size of the solar disk and only covers ~88% of the Sun instead of totality. The outer 12% of the Sun creates what looks like a ring of fire surrounding the dark lunar disk. This year, the Moon will pass in front of the Sun only one day after apogee and full annular eclipse will last a few minutes in the USA before it breaks through the ring. The path starts in southeast Asia in the early morning hours and travels 4000 miles to central USA. Partial eclipse will be visible through the more eastern states, but not the states along the Atlantic coastline. The last annular eclipse seen in the USA was in 1994.

Warning:  Please remember that you must view this event with either proper solar filters or special solar glasses, by projection, or grade 14 welder’s masks. Permanent eye damage or blindness can result otherwise.

Helpful links:


~ by Erika Rix on May 20, 2012.

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