2012 Annular eclipse over New Mexico (Image: Kevin Baird)
We will never, ever tell you to stare at the sun. Fortunately, we have a far better way for you to get a glimpse of the upcoming ring-of-fire solar eclipse.
A solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between Earth and the sun, temporarily blocking out its light. A ring-of-fire eclipse is, more prosaically, also just called an annular eclipse, to distinguish it from a total eclipse of the sun. As the name suggests, during a total eclipse the path of the moon totally covers the sun during its peak, like so:
Total solar eclipse (Image: NASA)
During an annular eclipse—although the moon blocks out most of the sun—the moon’s path lets a bit of sun stay visible through the whole thing. That means that, during the peak, it looks like someone had punched straight through the sun’s center with a cookie cutter, leaving only the outer ring behind.
A composite of the 2012 annular eclipse over the grand canyon (Image: Grand Canyon National Park)
2016 annular solar eclipse path (Image: A. T. Sinclair – NASA)
The ring-of-fire eclipse taking place in the early Thursday morning hours will be visible primarily over central Africa, with the island of Madagascar also getting a pretty good look. If you do happen to be in one of the areas, don’t simply look up. Instead, you should use a special solar filter or NASA has some instructions on how to make your own DIY projector with which to watch the whole thing without searing your retinas.
If you’re not in the viewing area, there’s also an excellent livefeed from Slooh. Slooh’s feed, which you can find right here, will be starting up very early Thursday morning at 2:45 am EDT.
If it’s anything close to this view of the 2012 ring-of-fire eclipse taken near New Mexico, it will be well worth getting up for.