​Solar Eclipse Reveals ‘Ring Of Fire’ Event

Author: John LesterBy:
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May 20, 2012

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NASA and astronomers are getting ready for a solar eclipse that will turn the sun into an amazing ring of fire event on Sunday. The solar winds will be exposed as the sun and moon align over the earth in a rare astronomical event.

“It will look like a donut with a very big hole in it,” NASA Space Scientist Jeffrey Newmark said.

Eclipses of some type occur almost every year, but stargazers have not seen an annular – shaped like a ring -eclipse on U.S. soil since 1994, and the next one is not to occur until 2023. That is because the phenomenon requires a particular set of orbital dynamics, Newmark said.

An annular eclipse occurs when the moon’s orbit is at its furthest point from the Earth and closer to the much larger sun. That juxtaposition allows the moon to block more than 90 percent of the sun’s rays when the two orbs slide into alignment in space, Newmark explains.

“It’s like moving your fist in front of your eyes,” he said. “You can block out the view of a whole mountain. It’s the same kind of effect.”

The eclipse will first become visible over southern Asia and then move across the Pacific to the northwest. Traveling on diagonal path toward the southeast, the eclipse will cross over parts of Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico, before disappearing in Texas with the sunset.

Sunday’s eclipse won’t turn day into night, but daylight will to fade as the moon slides in front of the sun, much like turning down a household dimmer switch, and then slowly return as the moon moves away.

From start to finish, the eclipse will be visible for just under two hours. A view of the so-called “ring of fire” spectacle at the eclipse’s peak, however, will only last about four minutes, and even then will only be visible to viewers positioned along the centerline of the eclipse’s path.