The countdown is on for stargazers as well as anybody who enjoys watching spectacular events that only happen rarely.
On October 14, 2023, an annular solar eclipse will cross North, Central, and South America. Consequently, millions of people in the Western Hemisphere will be able to see the eclipse, NASA explains. Or, more precisely, more than 6.6 million people live inside the path of annularity, according to Great American Eclipse.
What Is A Ring Of Fire
An annular solar eclipse is called a “ring of fire.”
A total solar eclipse, of course, occurs when the moon passes directly between the sun and Earth — completely blocking our view of the sun. On the other hand, while the moon also passes between Earth and the sun during a partial solar eclipse, the sun, moon, and Earth aren’t quite lined up exactly, so the sun is still partially visible in a crescent shape.
During an annular — Latin for “ring-shaped” — solar eclipse, the moon passes between the sun and Earth when the moon is at the farthest point in its orbit away from Earth. Because the moon is so far away from Earth, it appears smaller than at other points in its orbit and doesn’t quite obscure the sun. Instead, a thin band — or a ring — of the sun will still be visible from Earth.
Indeed, during the annular solar eclipse on October 14, 2023, the moon will only cover about 90 percent of the sun, according to the American Astronomical Society. The other 10 percent of the sun will be visible as a “ring of fire.”
This is the last annular solar eclipse that will be visible from the U.S. until June 21, 2039, NASA notes. And even then, Alaska is the only U.S. state in that eclipse’s path.
Where You Can See The Ring Of Fire
The annular solar eclipse will be visible on October 14, 2023, for people in parts of North, Central, and South America.
In the U.S., the annular solar eclipse will begin in Oregon at 9:13 a.m. Pacific and end in Texas at 12:03 p.m. Central, NASA explains.
The 125-mile-wide path of the annular solar eclipse will then pass over Mexico and Central America, including Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama. After that, it will pass over Northern Brazil before ending at sunset over the Atlantic Ocean.
You can find eclipse times and durations inside the path of the annular solar eclipse at Great American Eclipse.
Finally, it should be noted that, unfortunately, if you’re outside the annular solar eclipse’s path, you’ll see a partial solar eclipse instead. You can also see how much of the sun will be obscured during the eclipse at your location at Great American Eclipse.
Know Before You Watch
Keep in mind that the sun is never completely blocked by the moon during an annular solar eclipse. Consequently, as is the case with any type of solar eclipse, it’s critical to not look directly at the sun. Furthermore, never look at a solar eclipse with a camera lens, binoculars, or a telescope unless it has a special solar filter because it can instantly damage your eyes.
Instead, you should use so-called “eclipse glasses” — which are thousands of times darker than regular sunglasses — to watch the annular solar eclipse. You can also use a handheld solar viewer that is similarly dark.
If you don’t have eclipse glasses or a handheld solar viewer, you can still safely watch the eclipse indirectly. One way to do that is to use a pinhole projector, such as an index card with a hole punched in it, which projects an image of the sun onto a nearby surface.
You can learn more about safely viewing the eclipse at NASA’s Pinhole & Optical Projection webpage.
Finally, if you’re ready to travel to ensure you get an optimal view of the annular solar eclipse, you’ll need to make plans to be in parts of Utah, New Mexico, and Texas, the American Astronomical Society explains. Those states are directly in the path of the annular eclipse, but they also offer favorable weather for viewing all types of solar eclipses.