On Saturday, a spectacular celestial event will unfold in the skies over the continental United States. A solar eclipse, visible from coast to coast, will offer sky-watchers a chance to witness the moon partially covering the sun and a special treat for those in nine states – the appearance of a breathtaking “ring of fire” in the sky.
Taking place this Saturday, the eclipse will depend on clear skies for optimal viewing. Observers in Oregon, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, and Texas, as well as small portions of California, Idaho, Colorado, and Arizona, will witness the moon nearly completely obscuring the sun, creating a striking fiery ring around the moon’s shadow. In other states across the continental U.S., viewers will experience a partial solar eclipse, with the moon only partially concealing the sun.
Solar eclipses occur when the moon moves in front of the sun, temporarily blocking its light. Saturday’s event is an “annular” solar eclipse, characterized by the appearance of a ring-like shape. The term “annular” derives from Latin, meaning “ring-shaped.”
It is essential never to stare directly at the sun during a solar eclipse, even when the sun is partially covered by the moon. Special eclipse glasses or pinhole projectors are necessary to safely observe solar eclipses and protect your eyes.
On Saturday, individuals along a path approximately 125 miles wide, stretching from Oregon to Texas and extending into Central and South America, will witness the full “ring of fire” effect. Most North Americans outside this path will experience a partial eclipse provided that the skies remain clear.
The eclipse will commence in Oregon at 8:06 a.m. PT, with the “ring of fire” effect lasting for around 5 minutes. The moment of maximum coverage will occur at 9:18 a.m. PT in Eugene, Oregon; 9:20 a.m. PT in Alturas, California; 9:23 a.m. PT in Battle Mountain, Nevada; 10:28 a.m. MT in Richfield, Utah; 10:35 a.m. MT in Albuquerque, New Mexico; and 11:54 a.m. CT in San Antonio.
Saturday’s eclipse is a highly anticipated astronomical event because it’s a rarity for the path of a solar eclipse to traverse the continental U.S. so neatly, according to Diana Hannikainen, an editor at Sky & Telescope, a monthly magazine focusing on science and amateur astronomy.
Hannikainen emphasizes the incredible sight of the moon’s dark disk silhouetted against the sun. She suggests that if feasible, witnessing this event serves as a reminder that we live in a dynamic solar system.
Solar eclipses are considered precious sky-watching opportunities due to their limited visibility across the planet’s surface. The entire course of a solar eclipse can last up to approximately three hours as the moon passes in front of the sun.
In April, another celestial wonder will be visible in North America—a total solar eclipse where the moon completely obscures the sun.
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For those who miss Saturday’s event, the next chance to witness an “annular” solar eclipse in the U.S. won’t come until June 2039. However, this eclipse will only cross Alaska. The next annular solar eclipse to pass over the contiguous U.S. won’t happen until February 2046. Hannikainen emphasizes that such coast-to-coast events are truly worth experiencing.