Later this month, a rare annular solar eclipse is set to grace the skies, providing a breathtaking celestial display for observers in North, Central, and South America. This event marks the last opportunity for skygazers to witness an annular solar eclipse for over two decades.
On the 14th of October, the Moon will gracefully glide in front of the Sun, positioned at its farthest point from Earth. As a result, the Moon will not entirely obscure the Sun, creating a mesmerizing astronomical phenomenon known as a “ring of fire.”
The 2023 annular solar eclipse promises a visual spectacle that will unfold across eight states in the United States. It will trace a path from the northwestern state of Oregon to the southeastern state of Texas, commencing at 9:13 am PT and concluding at 12:03 pm CT.
After making its journey over the Gulf of Mexico, this celestial marvel will continue its course over Mexico, Belize, Honduras, Panama, Colombia, and Brazil. For observers on the ground, the eclipse will commence as a partial eclipse when the Moon begins to position itself in front of the Sun. Approximately one hour and twenty minutes later, the annular phase will commence, lasting anywhere from one to five minutes.
To facilitate tracking of the annular solar eclipse, NASA has crafted an interactive map that allows enthusiasts to follow the event’s progress down to the nearest second. For safety reasons, NASA strongly recommends that individuals use specialized eye protection designed for solar observation while witnessing the eclipse. Since the Moon will not entirely block out the Sun’s light, gazing directly at it can cause eye damage.
As NASA states on its website, “During the eclipse, the sky will grow dimmer, though not as dark as during a total solar eclipse. Some animals may begin to behave as if it is dusk, and the air may feel cooler.” To avoid eye injury, it is crucial not to attempt viewing the Sun through devices like camera lenses, telescopes, binoculars, or any optical equipment while wearing eclipse glasses or utilizing a handheld solar viewer, as concentrated solar rays can pierce through the filter.
While those in neighboring regions and states will have the opportunity to observe a partial solar eclipse, they will not be privy to the mesmerizing “ring of fire” phenomenon. The next annular solar eclipse to traverse the United States is not scheduled until 2046, according to Kelly Korreck, NASA’s eclipse program manager. However, a total solar eclipse will grace North America on the 8th of April, 2024, providing another stunning celestial spectacle for observers to anticipate.