Annular solar eclipse this Saturday


October 11, 2023

This Saturday, October 14, millions of viewers across the United States will be treated to an unusual sight. An annular solar “ring of fire” eclipse will occur across a narrow path from Oregon to Brazil. We may be able to see it in Western Washington, weather permitting. The event will start about 8:00 a.m PDT and will peak about an hour later. The event will last for about four minutes.

There won’t be another annular eclipse until 2046, although you may be aware of the total solar eclipse coming on April 8, 2024.

The difference between a total eclipse and an annular eclipse is that with the annular eclipse the moon will not completely block the sun. A bright border will appear around the moon for up to five minutes, depending on where you are watching. You will not be able to see the “diamond ring” that appears at the peak of a total solar eclipse.

Just like a total eclipse, one should never look directly at the sun during an annular eclipse unless you have special eclipse glasses. You risk blindness by doing so. If you don’t have eclipse glasses to watch the event, it’s possible to get the effect by creating a pinhole camera. You can find directions for making a simple pinhole camera on the website of California’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory:

It may be tempting to use your phone or digital camera to try to photograph the event. Unless you have special solar filter paper over your lens you risk burning the sensor. There may be time between now and Saturday to acquire some from a large camera store, and there are plenty of YouTube videos of how to make a simple lens filter, but with the current weather prediction we might not get to see the event anyway.


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