How awesome is this!? May 20th's Annular Eclipse of the Sun

Will you see it?

  • Yes

    Votes: 4 57.1%
  • No

    Votes: 3 42.9%

  • Total voters


12 Years
Jan 12, 2008
Nor Cal

Michael Gill
Eclipse-lovers haven't experienced a "central" solar eclipse from U.S. soil in nearly two decades (1994, to be exact). But those of you out west will soon have a good chance of seeing one on May 20, 2012, when the path of an annular eclipse covers a wide swath from northern California to the Texas Panhandle.

May's event is called an annular or "ring" eclipse because the Moon passes directly in front of the Sun but will cover only 88% of it. The undersize lunar disk results because the eclipse occurs just one day after the Moon reaches apogee, the most distant point in its orbit around Earth. So the black lunar silhouette will appear completely surrounded by the Sun's disk from a generously wide path that's at least 150 miles (240 km) across. Astronomers refer to this kind of incomplete lunar shadow as an antumbra.

The path of May’s annular eclipse stretches from China to the western United States. Red lines show the maximum percent of the Sun’s diameter covered, and black lines show when this occurs, for locations where a partial eclipse is visible. Click on the image for a larger version.
S&T illustration; source: F. Espenak
If you're planning on photographing this special event, we invite you to submit your photos to the S&T Photo Gallery!

WARNING: Because the Sun's disk won't be completely covered, you'll need to take careful precautions when attempting to view the ring or any phase of the partial eclipse. Looking at the Sun with your bare eyes, or with an inadequate filter, can permanently damage your vision.

There are several good ways to observe the Sun safely. You can view through special "eclipse shades" (not regular sunglasses) or a #13 or #14 rectangular arc-welder's glass. You can set up your telescope or even tripod-mounted binoculars to project the Sun's image onto a white card or other flat surface, and watch that. Special solar filters are also made to fit over the front of your telescope. Check out these safe-viewing options recommended by the editors of Sky & Telescope.

Nearly all North America gets at least a partial eclipse on May 20th, with the Moon taking a big bite out of the Sun. The eclipse will still be in progress at sunset for much of the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. Click image for larger view.
A Transpacific Eclipse

The event is first seen across Southeast Asia at dawn. The city of Guangzhou in southern China sits within the eclipse track, as do Tokyo, Osaka, and Yokohama in Japan, along with Hong Kong and Taipei. That's 36 million people in those six cities alone! Weather permitting, easily more than 100 million early-risers in Asia could see this ring eclipse. Then the Moon's shadow races 4,000 miles (7,000 km) eastward across the Pacific, narrowly missing Alaska's Aleutian Islands before making landfall along the California-Oregon border. By then it's already late afternoon locally.

Many towns in southwest Oregon (such as Medford), northern California (Eureka, Redding), central Nevada (Reno), southern Utah (St. George), northern Arizona (Flagstaff) and New Mexico (Albuquerque), and northern Texas (Lubbock) lie within the annular zone. Remember: the farther east you are along the track, the more important it becomes to find a clear western horizon. The table below shows a sampling of well-positioned cities and towns.
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I should see some, hopefully! I'm in northern Utah. We were going to drive south to see it better but, well, we have these chicks in a brooder now....
It was so awesome!! We were far north enough to be completely in the annular path, so we didn't see the "ring", but we did see a pretty awesome eclipse!! Very very cool

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