Annular Solar Eclipse: How to View It Safely and What to Expect
The October 14, 2023 annular solar eclipse will be visible from parts of North, Central, and South America. The path of annularity, where the ring of fire can be seen, will cross Oregon, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, and Texas in the United States, as well as Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, and Brazil. The rest of the continent will see a partial eclipse, where the Moon covers only a portion of the Sun. Credit: NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio
September 9, 2023 - On Saturday, October 14, 2023, a rare and spectacular celestial event will take place: an annular solar eclipse. This type of eclipse occurs when the Moon passes between the Earth and the Sun, but the Moon is too far away to completely cover the Sun’s disk. As a result, a thin ring of bright sunlight, called an annulus, surrounds the dark silhouette of the Moon. This is why an annular eclipse is also known as a “ring of fire” eclipse. An annular solar eclipse is different from a total solar eclipse, which happens when the Moon is close enough to the Earth to block the entire Sun. During a total eclipse, the sky becomes dark and stars become visible, while during an annular eclipse, the sky remains bright and only a partial eclipse is visible outside the path of annularity.
The October 14, 2023 annular solar eclipse will be visible from parts of North, Central, and South America. The path of annularity, where the ring of fire can be seen, will cross Oregon, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, and Texas in the United States, as well as Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, and Brazil. The rest of the continent will see a partial eclipse, where the Moon covers only a portion of the Sun.
In this article, we will tell you everything you need to know about this amazing phenomenon: how to view it safely, what to expect, and what products you can use to enhance your experience.
How to View an Annular Solar Eclipse Safely
Looking directly at the Sun without proper eye protection can cause permanent eye damage or blindness. This is true even during an eclipse, when the Sun may seem less bright. The only safe way to look at the Sun during an annular eclipse is through special-purpose solar filters that comply with the ISO 12312-2 international safety standard. These filters block out most of the Sun’s harmful rays and allow you to see the eclipse clearly and comfortably.
There are two main types of solar filters: eclipse glasses and handheld solar viewers. Eclipse glasses are like sunglasses that fit over your eyes and have lenses made of special material that blocks out most of the sunlight. Handheld solar viewers are cardboard or plastic devices that have a small hole with a filter in it. You hold them in front of your eyes and look through the hole at the Sun.
Both eclipse glasses and handheld solar viewers are inexpensive and widely available online or at local stores. However, you need to make sure that they are certified by reputable manufacturers or organizations that meet the ISO 12312-2 standard1. Before using any solar filter, you should always inspect it for any damage or defects. If it is scratched, punctured, torn, or otherwise damaged, do not use it and discard it. Read and follow any instructions printed on or packaged with the filter. Always supervise children using solar filters.
To use eclipse glasses or handheld solar viewers safely
Stand still and cover your eyes with your eclipse glasses or solar viewer before looking up at the bright Sun.
After looking at the Sun, turn away and remove your filter — do not remove it while looking at the Sun.
Do not look at the Sun through a camera, a telescope, binoculars, or any other optical device while using your eclipse glasses or handheld solar viewer — the concentrated solar rays will damage the filter and enter your eye(s), causing serious injury.
Seek expert advice from an astronomer before using a solar filter with a camera, a telescope, binoculars, or any other optical device.
What to Expect During an Annular Solar Eclipse
An annular solar eclipse lasts for several hours from start to finish. However, the most exciting part is when the ring of fire appears. This happens only for a few minutes along a narrow path called the path of annularity. The duration and location of this phase depend on where you are on Earth.
To find out if you are in or near the path of annularity for the October 14, 2023 eclipse2, you can use interactive maps like these:
These maps show you the exact times and locations of the eclipse phases, such as the partial eclipse start, the annular eclipse start, the maximum eclipse, the annular eclipse end, and the partial eclipse end. You can zoom in and out, and click on any point to see the details for that location.
If you are in the path of annularity, you will see the following sequence of events:
First, you will notice that the Sun looks like a crescent as the Moon begins to cover it. This is the partial eclipse phase, which lasts for about an hour before and after the annular phase.
Next, you will see a thin ring of sunlight around the Moon. This is the annular eclipse phase, which lasts for a few minutes. The sky will not become dark, but it may dim slightly and change color. You may also notice some changes in the temperature and the wind. Some animals and birds may behave differently as well.
Finally, you will see the Sun return to its normal shape as the Moon moves away from it. This is the end of the partial eclipse phase, which lasts for another hour or so.
If you are outside the path of annularity, but still within the continent, you will see a partial eclipse only. This means that you will see the Moon cover part of the Sun, but not enough to form a ring. The amount of Sun covered will vary depending on your location and time. The closer you are to the path of annularity, the more Sun you will see covered.
What Products You Can Use to Enhance Your Eclipse Experience
Viewing an annular solar eclipse with solar filters is a wonderful experience, but there are other ways to enjoy and learn from this phenomenon. Here are some products that can help you make the most of your eclipse adventure:
Eclipse Glasses and Solar Viewers: These are essential for viewing the Sun safely during any solar eclipse. They come in various designs and colors, and some have educational information printed on them. You can buy them individually or in bulk for your family, friends, school, or community.
Pinhole Projectors: These are simple devices that project an image of the Sun onto a screen using a small hole. You can make your own pinhole projector using cardboard, paper, foil, tape, and a pin3. Or you can buy ready-made pinhole projectors online or at local stores. Some examples are:
EclipSmart Solar Projector: This is a handheld device that projects a 2-inch image of the Sun onto a white screen. It has a built-in solar filter and a magnifying lens for better viewing.
Sunspotter: This is a wooden device that projects a 3-inch image of the Sun onto a white screen. It has a series of mirrors and lenses that track the Sun automatically and provide a clear and detailed view.
Solar Projector Kit: This is a DIY kit that lets you build your own pinhole projector using cardboard, lenses, and solar filters. It comes with instructions and materials for two different models: one that projects a 5-inch image of the Sun onto a wall or ceiling, and one that projects a 1-inch image onto a white card.
Cameras and Telescopes: These are optical devices that allow you to capture or magnify images of the Sun. However, you need to use special solar filters or attachments with them to protect your eyes and equipment from damage. You can find various types of solar filters and attachments online or at local stores. Some examples are:
EclipSmart Solar Filter: This is a filter that fits over your camera lens or telescope eyepiece and blocks out most of the sunlight. It comes in different sizes and shapes to match your device.
EclipSmart Solar Safe Finder Scope: This is an attachment that fits over your telescope finder scope and helps you locate and center the Sun in your telescope. It has a built-in solar filter and a red dot for easy alignment.
SolarLite Solar Filter: This is a filter that fits over your camera lens or telescope objective and blocks out most of the sunlight. It comes in different sizes and shapes to match your device.
SolarMax III Telescope: This is a telescope that is specially designed for observing the Sun. It has a built-in solar filter and an etalon system that enhances the contrast and detail of the Sun’s features.
An annular solar eclipse is a remarkable celestial event that offers a glimpse into the cosmos's wonder. To safely view and enjoy this awe-inspiring spectacle, remember to follow safety guidelines, plan your viewing location and time carefully, and be prepared to be amazed. Keep an eye on astronomical resources and event calendars to ensure you don't miss the next opportunity to witness the ring of fire in the sky. Happy eclipse hunting!