If You Happen To Be In The Deep South


An annular solar eclipse as seen in Utah in May 2012. A similar “ring of fire” eclipse will be visible in the southern hemisphere on Sunday. CreditRobyn Beck/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

For our friends and colleagues in the south, both in the Americas and in Africa, an astrophysical rarity will be in the night sky, not to be missed:

Cue the Johnny Cash music. On Sunday, a “ring of fire” eclipse will blaze over parts of South America and the southern and western tips of Africa. Scientifically known as an annular eclipse, this solar phenomenon occurs when the moon moves in between the sun and the Earth but is too far away to completely block the sun as it would during a total solar eclipse.

“Because you have this thin little ring around the edge of the moon where the sun pokes out, it gives it that ring of fire effect,” said C. Alex Young, a solar astrophysicist from NASA.

The moon’s orbit around the Earth is elliptical, meaning that at some points it is farther away from the Earth than at others, according to Dr. Young. Annular eclipses occur when the moon is at or near its greatest distance, known as apogee.

The countries with the best chance to watch the “ring of fire” burn-burn-burn include Chile and Argentina in South America as well as Angola, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo in Africa. They are along something called the path of annularity. That’s where the moon’s shadow is cast on Earth, and it varies between 18 miles and 55 miles in width as it moves. Those outside of the line will be able to see a partial solar eclipse, which looks like some galactic giant took a bite out of the sun.

Sunday’s annular eclipse will begin over parts of the Pacific Ocean. It will quickly make landfall in southern Chile around 9:10 a.m. local time, and then traverse into Argentina. Sky watchers in Argentina will see approximately 97 percent of the sun covered by the moon for about a minute, according to Dr. Young.

After that, the spectacle will cross the South Atlantic into Africa. It will hit parts of Angola around 4:15 p.m. local time and make appearances in Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo before the sun sets. It will last for a minute and a few seconds when it crosses over these countries.

If you’re not in South America, Africa or on a boat in the southern oceans, there will be a live stream from Slooh Community Observatory, a system of telescopes that observe the sky, beginning around 7 a.m. Eastern time…

Read the whole story here.

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