There is good news and there is bad news. The good news is that there will be an annular solar eclipse on the 20th of May. The bad news is that more than 80% of the world’s population is going to miss it. The Solar Eclipse, dubbed the ‘Ring of Fire Eclipse’ for reasons which will be clear in a bit, will be visible in its true spectacular glory on the western coast of the United States.
The Greatest Eclipse
The eclipse will only be visible from a small stretch of the earth’s surface, and even that is covered mostly by oceans. The place of Greatest Eclipse (GE) occurs bang in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, with no visible atolls nearby.
There is good news for US residents on the Western half of the country. The solar eclipse will track through the middle of California, south of Oregon, through most of Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico. Only partial eclipse will be seen on the eastern part of New Mexico. Texas will have to be satisfied with a short partial eclipse. The path traces out the Northern part of the Pacific Ring of Fire and thus the name.
Across the Pacific, on the Asian shores, Japan will be lucky to be able to witness the spectacle and so will be the western shores of China.
Making all of this much easier to track is NASA’s awesome interactive Google Earth Map. Here is a screenshot of the Map.
The first Lunar Eclipse of the year will occur on June 26 at 5:55 PM Korean time. Earlier this year the century’s longest Solar Eclipse also occurred and passed through India.
A lunar eclipse occurs when the moon passes behind the earth such that the earth blocks the sun’s rays from striking the moon. This can occur only when the Sun, Earth and Moon are aligned exactly, or very closely so, with the Earth in the middle. (cite: Wikipedia)
The Lunar eclipse will start in Korea on Saturday at 5:55PM and end at 11:21 PM, at around 8:38PM 54% of the lunar surface will be overshadowed by Earth.
The eclipse will be visible in Asia, Australia, Antarctica, parts of America and the Pacific Ocean. The eclipse will be visible in India only during the end part and will only be visible from extreme Northeastern parts of India like Assam.
The Partial Solar eclipse/Lunar Eclipse will be followed by a total Solar Eclipse on July 11 this year.
A solar eclipse occurs when the Moon comes directly between the Sun and the Earth, producing a shadow on the Earth’s surface where the Sun is completely or partially obscured. Solar eclipses are rare because the moon seldom comes in the direct path between the Earth and the Sun.
The solar eclipse of 15th January, 2010 will be the century’s longest eclipse, having a totality duration of 11 minutes, 8 seconds (visible in India for 10 minutes, 24 seconds). It starts at 10:44 AM IST (5:14 AM GMT) and ends at 2:29 PM IST (8:59 AM GMT). This is an annular eclipse, that is the apparent diameter of the Moon is slightly smaller than the apparent size of the Sun. Thus at totality (when the entire disc of the Moon covers the Sun), the Sun forms a bright ring (or annulus, hence the name) around the Moon.
The eclipse can be best seen in India in the town of Dhanushkodi at the southern tip of Rameshwaram. It is reachable by fish boats or 4×4 SUVs.
Here is how the eclipse will look at totality near Dhanushkodi:
Following this are the scenes of maxima in the major cities of India:
Word of warning: Do NOT stare at the eclipse (or the Sun, for that matter) with naked eyes or through run-of-the-mill sunglasses. Your eyes will be put at risk. An even louder word of warning: do NOT look at the eclipse with unshielded binoculars or telescopes. You will definitely burn your eyes if you do that. Please wear adequate protection. Specially designed solar eclipse goggles are available which will protect your eyes from the brightness of the Sun.