Next Tuesday, April 29, a solar eclipse will convert the orange glow of the sun into a blazing “ring of fire.” Quite a nice follow up to the total lunar eclipse witnessed by half of the world earlier this month on April 15. Many times, when the world is graced with a lunar eclipse, it tends to mean a solar event of the same nature is right around the corner, usually preceding or following the next new moon.
The eclipsed sun occurs as a new moon gracefully arcs along its path between the Earth and the Sun. As opposed to a total eclipse, the occurrence next week is considered an annular eclipse. This happens when the moon is the most distanced from the Earth, and due to its distance, it is unable to completely cover the Sun as it passes over. Therefore, an orange, glowing ring, an annulus–coined the “ring of fire”–is what can be seen of the Sun beyond the moon’s silhouette.
This astonishing event, however, will not be visible to most of the populated world. Antarctica will be the only continent where the annular eclipse is visible in its entirety, and only a small portion of the land mass is fortunate enough for the viewing. In other areas, eclipse enthusiasts will be able to see partial phases of the solar event when the sun showcases a series of crescent-shaped faces before it eventually sets. Unfortunately, the majority of those areas are in rarely traveled expanses across the southern Indian Ocean.
Tasmanians will have the best stage for the stellar event. Those in Hobart, the island state’s capital, will be able to watch the spectacle beginning at 3:51 local time, with the moon taking a tiny bite out of the Sun’s surface. The eclipse will reach its maximum at 5 p.m. sharp, before setting a quarter hour later at 5:17 p.m.
Australians will also get a front row seat to the show, as the entire continent is said to get a good view. According to Space.com, the northern part of the continent will have the best seats in the house, as in this area less of the moon will cover the Sun. For those in Sydney, the eclipse will start at 4:14 p.m. More than half of the Sun is predicted to be covered a whole hour later, setting in its partial eclipse only minutes later at 5:17 p.m., but unfortunately before the “ring of fire” occurs. On the western side of the continent, sky gazers will have the opportunity to witness the end of the performance. The eclipse will begin at 1:17 p.m. in Perth, and by 2:42 p.m. it is suspected to be at 59 percent, before ending completely at 3:59 p.m, before sunset.
For those gazing upward into the sky, remember to never look directly at the Sun during the eclipse without a telescope or a proper filter. People tend to watch a partial solar eclipse without protection thinking the sun is less harmful when partially covered, but that is not the case. In a case like next week’s sky show, the moon will never completely cover the Sun. Although the sun may be easier to gaze at directly, it is none the less dangerous to the eye.
One of the safest ways to view a solar eclipse is with a pinhole camera, a simple camera without a lens and a single aperture. Interlacing one’s fingers and looking through the holes offers the same effect, but it is not advised. Special filters are available from both science focused stores as well as camera shops.
Unfortunately most around the world will not be able to see the spectacular solar event, but that does not make next week’s impending “ring of fire” eclipse any less fascinating. Although the video below is from footage regarding 2012’s solar eclipse, it offers plenty of information regarding the stellar phenomena.
By Stacy Feder