When And Where To Watch The 'Ring of Fire' Solar Eclipse

 
on May 20 2012 4:39 PM

A spectacular solar eclipse, dubbed the ring of fire, will be visible to people in certain parts of the world Sunday night and Monday morning -- depending on location -- but live broadcasts will make it available to anyone with an Internet connection. 

The eclipse will be visible to the naked eye within a narrow corridor that traverses the Earth's northern hemisphere. The spectacle will begin in eastern Asia, cross the North Pacific Ocean, and end in the western U.S. in the late afternoon, according to NASA.

The Slooh SpaceCamera will stream live feeds from telescopes in Asia and various places across the U.S. starting at 5:30 p.m. EDT.

The western United States will enjoy bizarre solar effects that only occur every few decades, said astronomer Bob Berman, who will be a commentator on the Slooh event. In the annularity path, which will be about 147 miles [237 kilometers] wide when hitting our shores, the black moon will stand like a bull's-eye in front of the sun, its motion through space in-your-face obvious.

Residents in Japan will be treated first. For the more than 10 million residents within the Tokyo metropolitan area, the annular phase will last five minutes, beginning at 22:32 UTC on Sunday, which is 5:32 p.m. EDT on Sunday and 6:32 a.m. JST on Monday.

Japan's Panasonic, maker of electronic and other consumer devices, will broadcast live eclipse footage from the top of Japan's Mount Fuji, according to Sky and Telescope Magazine. Streams will be available on Ustream.tv. 

The eclipse will travel across the North Pacific to just south of Alaska's Aleutian Islands, then slowly curve to the southeast. After a 3,000 mile-long ocean voyage lasting nearly two hours, it will finally reach land again along the rugged coastlines of southern Oregon and northern California, NASA predicted.

In a wider zone that includes most Western states, the Sun becomes an eerie narrow crescent, Berman said. At maximum eclipse, the lighting on the ground will grow strange. Shadows of trees and bushes will contain thousands of tiny crescents, as spaces between leaves become pinhole cameras.

The ring of fire gets its name due to the fact that -- unlike a total eclipse, where the moon blocks out the whole Sun -- this event is an annular eclipse. Because the moon is near the farthest point from Earth in its orbit, it is too small in the sky to cover the Sun's face completely, and it will instead cover enough to leave a ring in the sky.

NASA said that during the course of its 3.5-hour trajectory, the event will cover roughly 13,600 kilometers and 0.74 percent of Earth's surface area.

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