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Solar eclipse visible from 154 national parks Sunday

Sunday's solar eclipse will be the first visible in the US this century. The annular eclipse will be best seen from 33 national parks, including the Grand Canyon.

By Nola Taylor ReddOurAmazingPlanet Contributor / May 16, 2012

On Sunday, a solar eclipse – a partial disappearance of the sun behind the moon – will be best seen from the western US. Here, a partially eclipsed sun sets on Oct. 13, 2004 as seen from Waikiki, Hawaii.

Patricia C. Totten

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When the sun vanishes behind the moon for the first time over the United States in this century, what better place to enjoy the view than from one of the 154 national parks that stand in its path?

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Astronomy lovers in the United States will be treated to a partial disappearance of the sun behind the moon this Sunday (May 20). Only the Eastern Seaboard will be totally exempt. Over the course of the solar eclipse, the sun won't vanish completely, but will remain as a ring around the moon for what is known as an annular eclipse. When the eclipse occurs, the moon will be near its most distant point from Earth, making it appear smaller in the sky and thus unable to block the entire sun. But it will still be a stunning sight.

Thirty-three national parks will see the full effect of the moon's interference. Many western parks will be offering an array of events for their guests, ranging from placing telescopes out for viewing up to a full-scale astronomy festival.

IN PICTURES: Solar eclipse

"We're lucky that so many parks happen to lie within the path of the annular eclipse," Grand Canyon park ranger Marker Marshall told OurAmazingPlanet.

A grand event

The Grand Canyon park staff, along with the help of the Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association, will be setting up solar telescopes and helping people safely view the eclipse. NASA scientists will be present to talk about the eclipse, as well as recent lunar findings. They will also have eclipse glasses for sale and will demonstrate how to use binoculars to safely set up a projection of the eclipse on a piece of paper. After the eclipse, the park will host a star party. [Top 10 Most Visited National Parks]

Marshall noted that, like other national parks, the Grand Canyon boasts signs warning people not to look directly at the sun, or to view the sun through telescopes, binoculars or cameras without a solar filter. Doing so will damage your eyes.

At Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah, the annual Astronomy Festival has been moved to coincide with eclipse weekend. Great Basin National Park in Nevada will hold a pre-eclipse party Saturday night with a presentation by an actor playing Galileo, and a special program on Sunday. Several parks will instruct guests on how to make a pinhole viewer of their own to safely observe the eclipse. Several other parks are receiving assistance from their local amateur astronomy clubs to help the public safely watch the show.

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