What you need to know about Saturday’s ‘Ring of Fire’ solar eclipse


People take photos with their smartphones as they watch the annular solar eclipse at Jabal Arba (Four Mountains) in Kofuf, Eastern Province, Saudi Arabia, on December 26, 2019. REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed/File Photo Acquire Licensing Rights

WASHINGTON, Oct. 13 (Reuters) – Millions of people in the Americas will have the opportunity to witness a solar eclipse on Saturday, weather permitting, as the moon passes in front of the sun.

The eclipse is expected to be visible in a path covering parts of the United States, Mexico and several countries in Central and South America.

Here’s an explanation of the types of solar eclipses that will occur and where they will be visible.

What is an annular solar eclipse?

A solar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes between the Earth and the Sun, blocking part or all of the Sun’s surface from view along a small path along the Earth’s path. One that will occur on Saturday is called an annular solar eclipse. This occurs when the Moon passes between the Earth and the Sun when it is at or near its farthest point from the Earth. Unlike a total solar eclipse, it will not completely obscure the Sun’s surface.

Why does it look like a ring of fire?

Because the moon is farther away from Earth than usual during an annular solar eclipse, the moon does not completely block the sun, but appears as a dark disk superimposed on the sun’s larger, brighter surface in the sky. As a result, the solar eclipse will temporarily look like a ring of fire surrounding the moon’s black disk. A total solar eclipse will occur on April 8, 2024, traveling across Mexico, the United States, and Canada.

Where will it be visible? What is its path?

According to NASA, the path that will see the greatest solar blockage in the United States on Saturday will begin at 9:13 a.m. PDT (12:13 p.m. EDT/1613 GMT) and cross several states. Parts (Oregon), then California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. The route then passes through parts of Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Colombia and Brazil before ending at sunset over the Atlantic Ocean. People in larger areas of North, Central and South America will be able to see less solar obscuration – still an impressive sight.

How big are the Earth, Moon and Sun?

As seen from Earth, the Moon will almost cover the Sun’s surface, simply because the Moon (which is actually much smaller than the Sun) is much closer to our planet. The Moon is 2,159 miles (3,476 kilometers) in diameter, while the Sun is approximately 865,000 miles (1.4 million kilometers) in diameter, and the Earth is 7,918 miles (12,742 kilometers) in diameter.

What’s the safest way to view a solar eclipse?

Experts warn that looking directly into the bright sun is unsafe and can cause eye injury without using specialized goggles designed for viewing its rays. Since the Sun is never completely obscured by the Moon during an annular solar eclipse, it is never safe to look directly at the Sun without such goggles. These experts say looking through a camera lens, binoculars or telescope without using a special-purpose solar filter can cause serious eye damage. They recommend always using safe sun-viewing glasses or a safe handheld sun viewer during an annular solar eclipse, noting that regular sunglasses are not safe for viewing the sun.

What is the difference between a solar eclipse and a lunar eclipse?

A lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth is between the Moon and the Sun and the Earth’s shadow is cast on the Moon’s surface. This makes the moon appear dim and sometimes reddish from Earth. A lunar eclipse can be seen from halfway around the Earth, making it much larger than a solar eclipse.

Reporting by Will Dunham Editing by Rosalba O’Brien

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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