A "Ring of Fire" Eclipse is Coming to the Western Hemisphere

On Saturday, people in the Americas will be able to see a beautiful celestial event: an annular solar eclipse. These happen when the Moon is farthest from Earth and moves between the Sun and Earth. The Sun is partially covered by it because it is so far away, giving it a “ring of fire” look.

NASA says that in the United States, the most interesting “path of the annularity” will go through a few major cities, such as Eugene, Oregon, Albuquerque, New Mexico, and San Antonio, Texas, from 9:15 a.m. to 11:50 a.m. local time. There will be partial eclipse phases an hour or two before and after the main event.

In any given place, you can see it for thirty seconds to five minutes. To protect your eyesight, though, people are told to be careful and only wear solar viewing glasses, never regular sunglasses. “Do NOT look at the Sun through a camera lens, telescope, binoculars, or any other optical device while wearing eclipse glasses or using a handheld solar viewer — the concentrated solar rays will burn through the filter and cause serious eye injury,” NASA advises.

After that, it will go through Mexico and Central America. After that, it will go through Colombia and northern Brazil on its way to South America. Finally, it will end at sunset in the Atlantic Ocean. People who can’t be in the path of this rare astronomical event will be able to watch it live on nasa.gov/nasatv/ from 11:30 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. Eastern time (1530 a.m. to 1715 gmt) from Albuquerque, New Mexico, Carville, Texas, and White Sands, New Mexico.

The event is also a practice run for the total eclipse that will happen in April 2024. “Absolutely breathtaking for science,” said Madhulika Guhathakurta, a scientist in the heliophysics program. There are clear changes in the upper atmosphere during solar eclipses. The ionosphere, which is made up of charged particles and bounces back and forth radio waves, is one example. “Although the atmospheric effects of solar eclipses have been studied for over 50 years, many unanswered questions remain,” stated Guhathakurta.

NASA will launch three rockets from New Mexico’s White Sands Missile Range to study these effects. The rockets will measure the temperature, electric and magnetic fields, and the density of electrons. In 2017, there was a total eclipse in the United States. Next total eclipse will happen in April 2023. The next one will happen in 2044. The next annular eclipse will happen in 2046.

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