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Ring of Fire

Annular Solar Eclipse on May 20, 2012

The Sun and Moon will team up to produce a brilliant ring of fire across the western United States on the afternoon of May 20, known as an annular solar eclipse.

This map shows the path of 'annularity,' with maximum eclipse (p.m., local time) for sites along the path. Areas outside the path of annularity will see a partial eclipse.This map shows the path of 'annularity,' with maximum eclipse (p.m., local time) for sites along the path. Areas outside the path of annularity will see a partial eclipse.

  Begins Max Ends Duration**
ARIZONA Times are p.m., local time
Page 5:24 6:35 7:31* 4:31
Crescent City 5:08 6:27 7:35 4:47
Eureka 5:10 6:28 7:37 3:59
Redding 5:42 6:29 7:37 4:32
Reno 5:16 6:31 7:37 4:16
Albuquerque 6:28 7:36 8:08* 4:26
Gallup 6:27 7:36 8:17* 4:21
Roswell 6:31 7:37 7:55* 3:32
Santa Fe 6:28 7:35 8:06* 3:33
Grants Pass 5:08 6:26 7:34 3:19
Lubbock 7:31 8:36 8:45* 4:13
Midland 7:33 8:38 8:43* 1:57
Cedar City 6:23 7:34 8:37 4:33
     * sunset  ** min:sec
Sources: NASA/US Naval Observatory

The eclipse occurs because the Moon will pass directly between Earth and Sun, covering the Sun's disk. The Moon will be near its farthest point from Earth, however, so it won't be quite big enough to cover the entire disk. Instead, a thin ring of sunlight will encircle the Moon.

The annular eclipse will be visible across a narrow strip of Earth's surface that begins in China, wraps across the Pacific Ocean, and ends in the western United States. From the U.S., the path of the eclipse begins at the California-Oregon border around 6:24 p.m. PDT. It then sweeps to the east-southeast, ending over western Texas, as the Sun and Moon set, at 8:39 p.m. CDT. Along the centerline of the eclipse's path, "annularity" will last up to about five minutes.

Along this path, the sky will grow dusky, the air will cool noticeably, and leafy trees will cast odd ring-shaped shadows.

Most of the rest of the United States will see a partial eclipse, in which the Moon will cover a fraction of the Sun but will not be completely enfolded within the Sun's disk. Only the Eastern Seaboard will completely miss the shadow play.

Eclipse-Viewing Events

Many astronomy clubs, science museums, observatories, and other groups will host eclipse-watching events that will include viewing through solar telescopes, helpful information, and other perks. More »

Eclipse Cycles

The May 20 eclipse is part of Saros cycle 128. The first eclipse in the series took place in the year 984, and the last will be in 2282. More »

CAUTION: While the Moon will hide most of the Sun's disk, the visible ring is still bright enough to cause eye damage. To view the eclipse, look through dark welder's glass, or build a "projector" by poking a pinhole in the side of a cardboard box and watching the sunlight projected inside the box.

Annular solar eclipseCREDIT: sancho_panza/Wikipedia

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Eclipses, Occultations and Transits