Viewing events, eyewear urged for 'Ring of Fire'

Viewing events, eyewear urged for 'Ring of Fire'

Credit: NASA

Viewing events, eyewear urged for 'Ring of Fire'


by TRAVIS PITTMAN / KING 5 News and Associated Press

Posted on May 15, 2012 at 9:42 AM

Updated Sunday, May 20 at 2:51 PM

SEATTLE - Parts of eastern Asia were being treated to a solar spectacle as the moon slid across the sun, creating a "ring of fire." Sky-watchers in the western U.S. awaited their turns as the rare phenomenon was due to move over the Pacific and toward them later Sunday.

Scientists cautioned would-be viewers everywhere to be very careful because the sun's damaging rays will remain powerful even during the annular solar eclipse. The advice: Either wear specially designed protective eyewear or attend a viewing event -- at a planetarium or amateur astronomy club, for example -- to avoid risk of serious eye injury.

The late day sun (on Sunday in the U.S.) will transform into a glowing ring in southwest Oregon, Northern California, central Nevada, southern Utah, northern Arizona and New Mexico and finally the Texas Panhandle.

CLICK to watch a live stream from New Mexico

Seattle won’t get the full effect, but KING 5 Meteorologist Rich Marriott said viewers in the Puget Sound region will see the moon cover more than 80 percent of the sun's diameter, but only 76 percent of its disk.

The eclipse will begin around 5 p.m. in the Seattle area. The maximum coverage will occur around 6:20 p.m., and the whole event will be over by 7:30.

Eclipse times vary by location, and NASA has a terrific interactive map that lets you plot your location and see the times and magnitude for the eclipse. And NASA has a page with more information about the May 20 eclipse.

We may see a break in the clouds to get a glimpse of the show. If not, click the link above to watch a live webcast from New Mexico.

Never look directly at a solar eclipse: Here are tips on how to safely watch it.

So what the heck is an annular eclipse? Here's a great video created by the Fremont Peak Observatory Association:

It's been almost two decades since a "ring of fire" eclipse was visible in the continental United States. To celebrate the end of that drought, nearly three dozen national parks in the path of the eclipse will host viewing parties.

The solar spectacle is first seen in eastern Asia at dawn Monday, local time. Weather permitting, millions of early risers in southern China, northern Taiwan and southeast Japan will be able to catch the ring eclipse. Then it creeps across the Pacific with the western U.S. viewing the tail end.

The late day sun will transform into a glowing ring in southwest Oregon, Northern California, central Nevada, southern Utah, northern Arizona and New Mexico and finally the Texas Panhandle where it will occur at sunset on Sunday. For 3 1/2 hours, the eclipse follows an 8,500-mile path. Viewing, from beginning to end, lasts about two hours. The ring phenomenon lasts as long as 5 minutes depending on location.

Outside this narrow band, parts of the West, Midwest and South -- and portions of Canada and Mexico -- will be treated to a partial eclipse. The Eastern Seaboard will be shut out, but people can log online to sites such as the Slooh Space Camera, which plans to broadcast the event live.

The last time this type of eclipse was seen in the U.S. was in 1994. This year's solar show offers ringside seats at 33 national parks along the eclipse path including the Grand Canyon and Bryce Canyon. A partial eclipse can be viewed from another 125 national parks.

For die-hard sky gazers, six U.S. locations will see the moon cover about 95 percent of the sun's diameter. They include the Petroglyph National Monument, Redwoods National Park, Lassen Volcanic National Park, Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Zion National Park and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.

A total solar eclipse is also expected to cross over Salem, Ore., on Aug. 21, 2017.

NASA: May 20, 2012, solar eclipse