The Annular Solar Eclipse of 2012
Get ready eclipse fans! An annual solar eclipse is scheduled to make an appearance on May 20, 21, 2012. For those of you who are lucky enough to live in the northern hemisphere AND live in China, Japan or the West Coast of the United States, you will be witnesses to this celestial show!
An annular solar eclipse is not quite the same as a total eclipse of the sun, where the moon completely blocks out all of the sun’s blazing disk. Rather, because of the location of the moon in relationship to the Sun and the Earth, the relative size of the moon is not quite big enough to block out the entire Sun. What you will see is the black disk of the moon covering most of the Sun as seen in the image above.
The eclipse will start in southern China at 22:06 UT. It will move across the southern coast of Japan and pass by Tokyo starting at 22:32 UT (May 21 local time). Most of the eclipse will take place over the open waters of the Pacific Ocean. In fact, the point of greatest eclipse will occur over open water just west of the Alaskan Aleutian Islands.
Those on the west coast of the United States will begin seeing the event in southern Oregon and northern California at 1:23 UT (May 20 local time). A good viewing location will be Redding, California around 1:26 UT (5:26pm local time). The path of the eclipse will take the shadow of the moon southeast through California, central Nevada, southern Utah and northern Arizona. See the map for more details.
Remember – never look directly at the eclipse. Always use eye protection to eliminate the harmful rays of the sun. One interesting thing to observe during an annular eclipse is the shadow that the sun casts. Make sure you look for it. You’ll see tiny crescent shadows of the sun.
If you take any pictures of the great annular eclipse of 2012, send them to us and we’ll get them posted on the site!
Image Credit: NASA