While the "Great American Eclipse" will be the big story as far as solar events go in the next several months, this weekend's annular eclipse for part of the country, and partial for the rest of us, will be a very nice warm-up act!
Occurring over a three-hour window from late morning through early afternoon on Saturday, October 14, over 60% of the sun's disk will be obscured by the moon at noon as it passes directly between the sun and Earth.
The April 2024 Great American Eclipse will be a total eclipse, in which the entirety of the sun will be obscured by the moon. However, this Saturday's eclipse will be an "annular" eclipse for those in the western United States. Annular refers to the fact that, while the moon passes directly in front of the sun like in a total eclipse, it is too small (due to its distance from our perspective) to completely block the sun, thus a "ring of fire" is visible around the outside of the moon.
|A "ring of fire" produced by an annular eclipse. Photo by Ferdinandh Cabrera/AFP via Getty Images)|
For those who are outside the path of totality, a partial eclipse will be visible with a "Pac-Man shaped" sun as the moon passes in front of it. The last annular eclipse visible in the continental U.S. was in 2012, but the next one won't be until 2048! (Of course, we will have a total eclipse crossing the U.S. just 6 months from now!)
For the Memphis metro, the eclipse will start about 10:30am, peak at maximum obscuration of 61% at noon, and finish at 1:35pm. Because it is not a total eclipse, viewers absolutely should NOT look directly at the sun to observe the eclipse, unless they are wearing appropriately-rated eye protection such as rated eclipse glasses. You can also use an indirect method like a pinhole camera that can be made at home with the kids! Here is a great article covering several ways to enjoy the eclipse safely.
The forecast looks good for Saturday with a cold front arriving Friday night that should clear out by Saturday morning, leaving mostly sunny to partly cloudy skies and a northwest breeze with temps in the mid to upper 60s during the eclipse.
More information on the annular eclipse can be found at EarthSky.org, GreatAmericanEclipse.com and NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio.
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