Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Annular Eclipse

Almost 14 days ago, there was a lunar eclipse visible in the Western Hemisphere. A lunar eclipse takes place when the Earth is directly between the Moon and the Sun. It takes the Moon 28 days to orbit around the Earth, so 14 days after a lunar eclipse, the Moon is on the opposite side of the Earth, between the Earth and the sun.

If the angles line up correctly, that’s the day when a solar eclipse is possible, and on April 29th, there will be an annular eclipse of the sun. Unfortunately the eclipse will be best viewed from remote areas in Western Australia, the southern Indian Ocean, and Antarctica, but populated areas in Eastern Australia may be able to see up to about 60% coverage just before sunset on Tuesday.

An annular eclipse occurs when the Moon blocks out most, but not all, of the sun’s disk. The moon’s orbit around the Earth is not circular, so at some times it’s closer to the planet and other times it’s farther away. An annular eclipse happens when the moon is at a point in its orbit far from earth, making the moon’s disk small enough to allow this “ring of fire” around the edge.

As with most eclipses, it is not safe to view this eclipse with the naked eye; you will cause eye damage if you look. Standard sunglasses also do not provide enough protection. Instead, eclipse-viewing glasses, welding shields, cameras, or other viewing devices will be required for save viewing.

Image credit: t-mizo (creative commons license): previous annular eclipse viewed from Japan

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