Sunday, May 20, 2012

Solar Eclipse 2012 Ring of Fire Viewing Times on May 20

The Annular Solar Eclipse of 2012 could produce a spectacular 'ring of fire' this coming Sunday on May 20, 2012.  The duration of the eclipse will be around four minutes with the exact length of time varying depending on the viewer's specific location.

The 2012 Annular Solar Eclipse comes one day after Earth is expected to be pummeled by a solar flare's coronal mass ejection on May 19, 2012.

A solar eclipse in which the Moon's antumbral shadow traverses Earth (the Moon is too far from Earth to completely cover the Sun).  During the maximum phase of an annular eclipse, the Sun appears as a blindingly bright ring surrounding the Moon.

The Greatest eclipse is defined as the instant when the axis of the Moon's shadow cone passes closest to Earth's center. For total eclipses, the instant of greatest eclipse is virtually identical to the instants of greatest magnitude and greatest duration. However, for annular eclipses such as this one, the instant of greatest duration may occur at either the time of greatest eclipse or near the sunrise and sunset points of the eclipse path. 

The Greatest Eclipse will pass over northern California, Nevada, southwestern Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, southwestern Colorado, an northwest Texas.  A partial solar eclipse will be easily viewable in parts of the U.S. that are west of the Appalachian Mountain chain.

It will not be visible from the U.S. East Coast, including Florida (except for the panhandle).

These are the viewing times for the May 20 Solar Eclipse where the Greatest Eclipse will occur (which will vary by plus or minus a few minutes depending on viewer's exact location):

Northern California 5:10 p.m. PDT
Nevada   5:18 p.m. PDT
Utah  6:22 p.m. MDT
Arizona 5:24 p.m. MST
New Mexico 5:28 p.m. MDT
Colorado (southwest portion) 6:24 p.m. MDT
Texas 7:30 p.m. CDT

This NASA timelapse video below shows an annular eclipse as seen by JAXA's Hinode satellite on Jan. 4, 2011. An annular eclipse occurs when the moon, slightly more distant from Earth than on average, moves directly between Earth and the sun, thus appearing slightly smaller to observers' eyes; the effect is a bright ring, or annulus of sunlight also called a 'ring of fire', around the silhouette of the moon. (No audio.)

Image and Video Credit: NASA