The first of two American solar eclipses is just a month away. It’s an annular eclipse. That means the Moon won’t completely cover the Sun. Instead, sunlight will outline the Moon — a bright “ring of fire.”
The eclipse is annular because the Moon will be several thousand miles farther from Earth than average. At that range, it won’t be quite large enough to totally block the Sun from view.
Eventually, that’s what all solar eclipses will look like. The Moon is moving away from Earth, at about an inch and a half per year. In half a billion years or so, it’ll be so far that it’ll never again completely obscure the Sun. Total solar eclipses will vanish, replaced by annular eclipses with ever-larger rings of sunlight around the Moon.
Annular eclipses still offer a beautiful experience, though. The sky turns dusky, the air cools, and trees produce ring-shaped shadows. And viewed with the proper eye protection, the eclipse itself is quite a sight.
The October 14th eclipse will sweep ashore on the coast of Oregon, then slide southeastward. It’ll pass across six other states before heading into the Gulf of Mexico, near Corpus Christi, Texas, around noon Central Time.
Except for Hawaii, all of the U.S. outside the path of annularity will see a partial eclipse, with the Moon blocking a smaller fraction of the Sun.
The second American eclipse will be an even greater spectacle — a total eclipse, coming up on April 8th.
Script by Damond Benningfield