Solar Edition Telescopes
Are You Prepared?
On May 20, 2012 (May 21, 2012 in the eastern hemisphere), a rare and spectacular annular solar eclipse will take place with the Moon passing directly between the Sun and Earth. Although the Moon will pass directly in front of the Sun, the Moon will not totally block out the Sun because its orbit will be further away from Earth making its apparent diameter smaller than the Sun. As a result at mid-eclipse, the Sun will appear as an annulus (Ring of Fire) to have a large black hole in the middle of it.Learn More »
The narrow path of annularity, roughly 300 km wide and 13,600 km long, will stretch from the China coastline at sunrise through southern Japan, traverses the northern Pacific Ocean until it reaches the California/Oregon border and through the desert Southwestern states. The eclipse finally ends at sunset from the Southern parts of the Texas panhandle. Regions outside the path of annularity will witness a partial eclipse.
The annular phase runs from 22:06:17 UT on May 20, when the eclipse begins in the Gulf of Tongking, to the end of the eclipse in Texas at 01:39:11UT. Maximum eclipse takes place at 23:52:47 UT on May 20, when the annular phase will last over 5½ minutes. The partial eclipse will be visible over most of Asia, Russia, and north-western North America between 20:56:07 UT on May 20 and 02:49:21 UT on May 21. Because this will be an annular solar eclipse, the Moon will not completely cover up the Sun’s disk as it does during a total solar eclipse. This occurs because the Moon’s orbit around Earth is not perfectly round but more oval in shape which causes its distance to vary between 221,000 and 252,000 miles. This variation makes the Moon’s apparent size seen from Earth change. When the Moon is closer to Earth, the Moon’s disk appears larger than the Sun. If an eclipse occurs during that time, a total eclipse of the Sun takes place. If the Moon is at its far orbit from Earth, its disk will appear smaller than the Sun. If an eclipse occurs during that time, as is the case on May 20, 2012, an annular eclipse of the Sun will take place.
Although the eclipse will cover as much as 94% of the Sun’s disk,adults and children must use extreme caution to view the eclipse or permanent eye damage may occur. It is never safe to look directly at the partial and annular phases of the eclipse without proper eye protection. A #14 welder’s glass is an ideal choice as well as many commercially made solar filters and projection methods. Because this eclipse will take place in the late afternoon for most observers in the western parts of the USA, the Sun will be in deep partial eclipse as it nears sunset. For those observing near Lubbock, Texas, the Sun will actually set as a “Ring of Fire” and will make some interesting photographic opportunities. However, remember to use proper filtering at all times and enjoy one of nature’s greatest spectacles.