Don’t Miss Sunday’s Solar Eclipse


Nasa’s Hinode Mission - an international mission to study the sun – captured stunning images of the last annular eclipse on January 6, 2011. The sensitive telescopes are expected to capture even more breathtaking images on Sunday.

I can’t decide whether to check out Sunday’s eclipse from Petroglyph National Monument, just west of Albuquerque, New Mexico, or head over to one Texas’s state parks where there are lots of programs being offered by professional and amateur astronomers alike.(There’s a full list of state park activities on the Texas Parks & Wildlife website.)

I’m lucky, because stargazing is one of my favorite pastimes, and I’m within an easy drive of some wide-open skies. On Sunday, May 20, I’ll be watching what’s called an “annular” solar eclipse that will begin in eastern Asia, cross the North Pacific Ocean, and end in the western United States. A partial eclipse will be visible from a much larger geographic area.

Eclipse-watching map

This map from Stardate shows the prime eclipse-viewing areas in the Western U.S.

During the annular eclipse the moon will not completely block the sun, but instead will leave a bright “bulls eye” ring of light visible around the edges.

Today, I talked to Claudia Brookshire, a park ranger at Bandelier National Monument in northern New Mexico, today, and she offered advice for anyone planning to watch the eclipse. “The national parks will be open until sunset,” she said, “so even if the scheduled programs are full, there will be plenty of opportunities to watch the eclipse from the park. Find a place up high on the mesa.” She also cautioned eclipse watchers to protect their eyes by either wearing a pair of solar glasses, using a pinhole projector, or using welder’s glasses with a 14 filter or higher.

Where will you be on Sunday evening when the moon eclipses sun?


To learn even more about the eclipse, check out these links:

The McDonald Observatory in West Texas publishes Stardate. They’re responsible for the great eclipse map above, and have a chart of eclipse times in the U.S.

Nasa offers great eclipse photos, and also safety advice.

The program EarthSky, heard on NPR, created a podcast that includes information about the upcoming eclipse.


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