A rare type of solar eclipse will play out tonight on American clocks, but few people will get to enjoy it. It’ll follow a narrow path from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific. The path will just nick the northwestern corner of Australia and the western tip of Indonesia. Most of it will cross open ocean.
The eclipse is a hybrid — a cross between an annular eclipse and a total eclipse.
All solar eclipses take place when the new Moon passes directly across the face of the Sun. In a total eclipse, the Moon completely covers the Sun, turning the sky dark. In an annular eclipse, the Moon is a little farther from Earth than average, so its disk isn’t quite big enough to completely block the Sun. Instead, a thin ring of sunlight surrounds the Moon.
The first and last hours of this eclipse will be annular. Between those periods, though, it’ll be total, with the Moon barely big enough to cloak the entire Sun. The eclipse gets under way at 9:37 p.m. Central Time, and ends more than four hours later. Viewers flanking the main pathway will see a partial eclipse, with the Moon covering a portion of the Sun.
Those of us in the United States won’t see a thing. But our time is coming. An annular eclipse will sweep across the western and southwestern U.S. on October 14th. Even better, a total eclipse will grace our skies next April 8th, along a path from Texas to Maine. So mark your calendars for these cosmic spectacles.
Script by Damond Benningfield