There hasn’t been an annular solar eclipse visible in the continental United States in 18 years. But on Sunday afternoon, a narrow strip along the southwestern part of the country will be able to see the rare celestial event when the moon blocks all but a bright ring around the sun. This is different than a total solar eclipse when the moon blots out the entire sun.
An annular solar eclipse occurs when the moon crosses the sun dead-centre at its farthest distance from Earth, meaning the moon isn’t big enough to cover the sun completely. (If you remember, a few weeks ago the moon was closest to Earth in its orbit, resulting in the supermoon).
Most of North America will get to see a partial eclipse — when the moon partially obscures the sun creating more of a crescent-shape — but only a few places will get to see the spectacular “ring of fire.”
According to NASA:
The “path of annularity” where [the “ring of fire”] occurs is only about 200 miles wide, but it stretches almost halfway around the world passing many population centres en route: Tokyo, Japan; Medford, Oregon; Chico, California; Reno, Nevada; Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Lubbock, Texas. In those locations the ring of fire phenomenon will be visible for as much as 4 and a half minutes.
Below is an animated map depicting the annular solar eclipse’s viewing area in the United States.
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