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Next Solar Eclipse: Ring of Fire on May 20, 2012
A solar eclipse occurs when the moon gets directly between Earth and the sun. Sunday’s event will be an partial solar eclipse across most of the United States and Canada, and a more compelling annular solar eclipse for a narrow swath of residents in the West and Southwest. The sun sets before any of it will be visible from the East Coast, however.
During the annular eclipse, the moon will be analogous to a black dime in front of a shiny penny, with a thin “ring of fire” — sunlight that streams around the moon.
Annular eclipses occur when the moon is at or near its farthest distance from Earth on it’s non-circular orbit. Annular eclipses can be dramatic, but because they’re not total eclipses, they must be viewed with proper safety filters — looking at direct sunlight can damage your eyes.
The moon will block up to 94 percent of sunlight for those directly under the narrow path.
The “ring of fire” will appear “as thin as a basketball hoop with a half-inch rim seen face on from about 160 feet away,” explains Joe Rao, skywatching columnist for SPACE. com. The sky won’t turn dark but for a few minutes it will transform into a strange “counterfeit twilight,” Rao said."
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