The Two-Way
3:10 pm
Fri May 18, 2012

The 'Ring Of Fire': A Spectacular Solar Eclipse Is Coming This Sunday

You lucky West Coast folks! A stunning solar eclipse will occur late Sunday afternoon, and people in the western U.S. will get the best views. Live on the East Coast? It's already going to be dark, so the only way we'll get to experience this is via webcam.

The event starts about 5:30 PM Pacific time and the maximum effect will occur about 6:30 PM, according to NASA.

This is an annular solar eclipse, not the total blackout we imagine when the moon passes in front of the sun. NASA says as the moon travels, there will be an 'annulus of sunlight' that peeps all around the moon's shape - that's the ring of fire effect. The sun, hidden behind the moon, will look like it's a big black hole.

This bears repeating: during the eclipse, don't look at the sun. And don't use your home telescope to peer directly at the eclipse; you should have special solar filters fitted for it. Here's NASA webpage on eye safety during eclipses.

In the U.S., the eclipse's shadow will travel from the Pacific Coast in Oregon and cut toward the southeast. The shadow will move over northern California, swing directly over Reno, Nevada, cover quite a bit of Utah, edge northern Arizona and slide directly over most of New Mexico. The Texas panhandle will see it, too. (Tokyo will also have a great view.) NASA says the ring effect may last up to four and a half minutes.

If you can't bear to miss it, check out Panasonic's website. The Japanese electronics company is sending a video team up Mt. Fuji to capture the event, notes AFP. There's a cool map that will mark the team's ascent to the top and a link to the eclipse video stream. If you'd rather see the eclipse in person, check out Reno. The Las Vegas Sun reports the city's hotels are offering discounts for the event and the local planetarium is staging a festival.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.