This weekend, inhabitants of the United States are in for a rare astronomical sighting. A “ring of fire” solar eclipse is expected to occur on Saturday in the U.S., as well as in parts of Central and South America, according to National Geographic editor and space expert Allie Yang.
The annular solar eclipse, creating a vision of a ‘ring of fire,’ will traverse through Western states including Oregon, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, Texas, and some parts of California, Idaho, Colorado, and Arizona.
Anticipation for the ‘ring of fire’ eclipse in the United States
Meanwhile, the entire contiguous U.S. will experience a partial eclipse without the full “ring of fire” effect, as per Yang.
This kind of eclipse occurs when the moon passes in front of the sun and appears slightly smaller, creating a “sliver of sun in the shape of a ring” for those who are in the right place at the right time, the expert explained.
Although annular eclipses like this one aren’t really that rare, Yang mentioned it’s uncommon for the eclipse path to cross the U.S. The last ‘ring of fire’ eclipse seen in the country was in 2012.
“Even a sliver of sun, as we’ll see in this year’s eclipse, will scorch your eyes … Irreversible damage can happen in seconds,” warned Yang.
After this weekend, this phenomenon won’t be visible again until 2039.
Precautions for the Astronomical Show
Eye protection is crucial for watching eclipses, though it may seem counterintuitive, insisted Yang.
“You’d think that with some of the sun blocked by the moon, it might be safer to look at — but the opposite is true,” she cautioned.
She recommended buying ISO-certified eclipse glasses or using an indirect viewing method, like pinhole projection, to safely look at the sun.
Beyond the Visual
Eclipses are not all about what you can see; they present the opportunity for a “totally multisensory experience”, pointed out Yang.
She explained that if you’re outdoors, “you might hear nighttime animals come out. You may feel the coolness of the sun being blocked, and its warmth returning as the moon passes the sun.”
For radio enthusiasts, changes in radio frequencies due to the eclipse’s impact on our upper atmosphere, the ionosphere, where radio and GPS signals travel, can also be listened to, Yang noted.
In terms of scientific gain, Yang detailed how scientists will launch rockets and balloons before, during, and after the eclipse to “measure changes to temperature, pressure, and ionization”.
“Data gathered from this eclipse will help inform what research is done on April 8, 2024, when there will be a total eclipse,” she concluded.
With information from Fox News