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Solar Eclipse

November 2, 2013

The Sun and Moon will stage a bit of an unusual act tomorrow: a hybrid solar eclipse. Viewers along the middle of the eclipse path will see a total eclipse, while those toward the ends will see an annular eclipse, in which a ring of sunlight surrounds the Moon.

The eclipse actually begins in North America, where the Moon just clips the rising Sun along the east coasts of the United States and Canada. The Moon will cover only a tiny fraction of the Sun, though, so don’t look at the eclipse directly — the unfiltered Sun can damage your eyes. Instead, use a piece of dark welder’s glass or other appropriate eye protection.

The Moon’s shadow then sweeps southeastward across the Atlantic, where the eclipse becomes annular. The Moon is a bit too far from Earth to completely cover the solar disk, so a ring of sunshine encircles the intervening Moon.

As the shadow continues to move eastward, though, the Moon cozies just close enough to cover the entire Sun, creating one of nature’s most amazing spectacles: a total eclipse. The sky will go dark, and the Sun’s faint outer atmosphere, the corona, will shine around the Moon like silvery wisps. The best view comes off the southwestern coast of Africa.

The eclipse path enters the continent over Gabon and Congo, where the Sun will remain eclipsed for only about a minute. The path continues across central Africa until the eclipse ends as the Sun sets over the eastern coast, near the Indian Ocean.


Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2013

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