Skygazers from select parts of the world will get to see the so-called “Ring of Fire” eclipse on Sunday. This event would also mark the first solar eclipse of the year, and one that will be viewable mainly to those residing in the Southern Hemisphere.
According to a blog post from NASA, Sunday’s event is an annular eclipse, which happens when the moon crosses the path of the sun, almost blocking it out as it casts a shadow on Earth. It is quite similar to a total solar eclipse, though there are some differences, such as the moon being too distant from Earth to completely hide the sun. That’s why such events have been dubbed as “Ring of Fire” eclipses, due to the bright reddish border surrounding the blocked-out sun.
“An annular eclipse is the product of almost the same celestial geometry as a total solar eclipse – that is, from the perspective of some place on Earth, the moon crosses in front of the sun’s center.”
— #StormHour (@StormHour) February 24, 2017
Speaking to AFP (report c/o Yahoo! News), Terry Moseley of the Irish Astronomical Association explained what skygazers can expect when the eclipse takes place on Sunday, saying that it will first appear like the moon has “(taken a) bite” out of the sun. But he also warned that people shouldn’t try viewing the eclipse with the naked eye.
“This ‘bite’ gradually gets bigger and bigger as the moon — which is itself invisible — moves further and further in front of the sun. As about 90 percent of the sun is covered, you’ll notice a distinct drop in temperature and brightness, and a change in the quality of the light which is hard to describe.”
According to Space.com, only skywatchers from select regions would be able to watch the Ring of Fire eclipse on Sunday. The annular eclipse will be viewable to people from Argentina, Chile, Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Zambia, but it may or may not be clearly visible, depending on the weather. NASA recommends that would-be eclipse watchers check the weather forecast one to two days before the event takes place, and choose an area without any clouds to get the best view.
“Good weather is the key to successful eclipse viewing — better to see a shorter eclipse from clear sky that a longer eclipse under clouds.”
Those from other parts of the world can view the Ring of Fire eclipse in all its stunning glory at the Slooh Observatory’s official live stream, which begins at 7 a.m. EST on Sunday, about ten minutes before it becomes visible in southern Chile.
Although the Ring of Fire eclipse will only be visible in certain Southern Hemisphere countries, those in the United States will have another chance to catch a solar eclipse as it happens about six months from now. Space.com wrote that on August 21, residents of the continental U.S. will be able to view a total solar eclipse, with a partial eclipse visible to all of North America. This would mark the first time America’s 48 contiguous states would be able to view a total solar eclipse since 1979, and the first time in almost a century that such an event would “sweep from coast to coast” across the U.S.
Those who will be lucky to view the Ring of Fire eclipse on Sunday would need to take the necessary precautions when trying to catch it. As mentioned, one should not look directly at the sun as the eclipse takes place, whether with the naked eye or with binoculars or a telescope. Special sunglasses may be needed — the Mercury News suggests using eyewear with solar filtration for such situations.
[Featured Image by David McNew/Getty Images]