Solar eclipse 2012: All systems go for witnessing rare 'ring of fire'

A rare annular eclipse, where a ‘ring of fire’ outlines the moon as it crosses the sun, will greet US viewers Sunday evening. Residents of the US West will have a good shot at seeing the full fire ring.

Alexander F. Yuan/AP
The sun is seen partially blocked by the moon through ceilings of ancient buildings during a solar eclipse in central China in 2010.

The last time an annular solar eclipse hovered above Los Angeles, in 1992, a “dumb cloud,” as one young skygazer said at the time, ruined the show. On Sunday, Angelenos will get another, hopefully much better, shot at witnessing at least part of a phenomenon where the face of the moon can’t quite block the sun, creating either a partial or complete halo in the sky.

Aside from some localized fog and cloud banks, weather forecasters are calling for mostly clear skies for a paintbrush stroke of the US that runs from Oregon to northern Texas, where locals will be able to see the full ring of fire as it appears on the US continental shelf for the first time in nearly 20 years. (Los Angeles is slightly south of the zone, meaning residents will instead see a crescent sun  – which is nothing to sneeze at, either.)

“Right now, it appears the majority of the territory in the zone of the annular eclipse … will be in good shape with two possible exceptions,” writes the Weather Channel’s Chris Dolce. “The tail end of a frontal boundary and an upslope wind flow could bring some isolated thunderstorms and cloud cover to eastern New Mexico and western Texas. Elsewhere, an approaching frontal system off the Northwest coast is likely to bring extensive cloud cover to southwest Oregon and far northwest California.”

Hundreds of national parks and astronomy enthusiasts are planning viewing parties across the region, with Texas authorities suggesting those who want to see the full effect head to the northern part of the state, like Lubbock or even up into Albuquerque, in New Mexico, where the viewing is likely to be prime.

Some of the best specific places to witness the eclipse include Utah’s Zion National Park, California’s Lake Tahoe region, Arizona’s Grand Canyon, and the pueblos of northern New Mexico.

(Remember, don’t look at the sun directly through anything less than No. 14 arc-welders glasses. Use projection devices instead, such as a hole pricked in a sheet of printer paper.)

Californians, for their part, are being cautioned that inland areas may be better than beaches for watching the eclipse, since the regular gray clouds that roll in from the Pacific in the evening can arrive as early as 5 p.m. Depending on location,  the eclipse will begin around 5:24 p.m. local time in California, peak at 6:38, with the full sun revealed again at 7:42 p.m., a few minutes before sunset.

Sunday’s rare annular eclipse is part of what’s become an astronomically active spring in the US, where excited skywatchers have in recent weeks bore witness to meteor showers and a “super moon.”

The next major solar eclipse in the US won’t come until August 21, 2017, although Australia and parts of the South Pacific will see one later this year, on Nov. 17.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.