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How to See This Year’s Rare ‘Ring of Fire’ Solar Eclipse

4 minute read

From the Pacific Northwest through the Southwest, people in the U.S. will be able to view a celestial spectacle on Saturday night, when the moon passes between the sun and Earth, obscuring the sun’s light, bringing forth this year’s solar eclipse. 

The 2023 eclipse is an annular solar eclipse, which occurs when the moon is farthest away from the Earth. That distance means it won’t be a total eclipse because the moon will not block out all of the sun’s light. Instead a “ring of fire” will be created in the sky when the eclipse reaches its peak.

The eclipse will be most visible through Southern Oregon, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, and Southwest Texas. Other states may still be able to view some of the eclipse, but only partially, meaning they will only see a crescent shape. 

The annular solar eclipse starts at 9:13 a.m. PDT on the West coast, according to NASA, though a partial eclipse will be visible shortly after 8 a.m. in Eugene, Ore.

This is the last annular “ring of fire” solar eclipse that will be visible in the U.S. until 2039, though Alaskans will be the only ones to view that event. 

Where the eclipse is happening 

The solar eclipse will pass diagonally from states as far west as Oregon before moving south down through Texas. Big cities like Albuquerque and Santa Fe in New Mexico are within the path to view the full ring of fire. In San Antonio, Texas, residents can expect to see anywhere from three to four-and-a-half minutes of the eclipse. To determine whether a specific location will see the eclipse, NASA has an interactive map showing the path the 2023 eclipse is taking while also listing times when the astronomical event begins. 

The eclipse will also be visible to countries south of the U.S., namely Guatemala, Colombia, Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Brazil, and northwest Mexico.

Read more: Why Total Solar Eclipses Are So Rare

Residents in the Northeast and Midwestern U.S. will have a better chance at seeing the eclipse next year, when a total solar eclipse occurs in April 2024. A total solar eclipse differs from this weekend’s event because the moon will be much closer to the Earth, entirely obscuring the sun.

How to watch the eclipse safely 

Because the annular solar eclipse never fully blocks sunlight, experts warn people that they must wear specialized eye protection when viewing this phenomenon. The use of binoculars, a camera lens, or a telescope that does not have a “special-purpose” solar filter will cause serious eye damage, NASA warns. Sunglasses are also ill-equipped to adequately protect people’s eyes.

Instead, spectators should opt for eclipse glasses, also known as solar viewing glasses, or solar viewing cards. Your eclipse glasses should meet the ISO 12312-2:2015 safety standard. There is no way for everyday people to verify this on their own without the use of a spectrophotometer, so experts suggest that people make sure that they purchase their product from a reputable manufacturer or an authorized distributor. Online sites like Amazon and eBay are not currently on the list of verifiable vendors

Those who do not have special lenses can use the indirect viewing method, which means viewers do not look directly at the sun and instead use a pinhole projector. Instructions for how to make your own projector are on the NASA site

Experts also recommend that spectators wear sunscreen and protective clothing while viewing an eclipse because they will likely be exposed to the sun for an extended period of time. 

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