Solar eclipse. Kinda.

By Phil Plait | January 25, 2009 2:32 pm

Somehow, I almost missed telling you that there will be a solar eclipse on Monday! But there are two things you should know: it’s annular, and you probably won’t see it.

Annular eclipse, pedigree unknownAnnular eclipses happen when the Moon is at or near apogee, the point in its orbit when its farthest from Earth. It looks a bit smaller because it’s farther away, so it doesn’t cover the Sun completely. In this case, the eclipse is happening near perihelion, when the Earth is closest to the Sun, so we’re maximizing the effect: the Moon looks small and the Sun looks big. When this happens, the Moon leaves a ring of sun around it, called an annulus (Latin for ring). Hence annular.

Also, this eclipse happens mostly over the vast nearly empty Pacific Indian Ocean, so it’s not a great one to get lots of folks to see it. A partial eclipse will be seen over south Africa, Australia, and Indonesia, so that’s cool. For them. It’ll be snowing here in Boulder. Sigh.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Cool stuff

Comments (29)

  1. Mark

    Not to be nitpicky (uh, well, actually, yes) – isn’t that the Indian ocean?

    Africa to the left, Australia to the right, India above… doesn’t look all that Pacific to me… ;)

  2. Mark is right. I just checked the map on the NASA page, and that is clearly the southern Indian Ocean. Dr. Plait is an American though, so geography probably isn’t a strong suit for him. :p

    “War is God’s way of teaching Americans geography.” Ambrose Bierce.

  3. Charles Boyer

    On Monday, 21 August 2017 there will be a total eclipse in the SE USA, starting around Charleston and cutting NW into the SW of the NC mountains and beyond.

    Yeah, I am already making plans.

  4. By the way, this blog entry would be a perfect place to mention that in the distant future, ALL eclipses will be annular. ;)

  5. DrFlimmer

    THAT distant future doesn’t bother me ;) . I want to see a “real” eclipse earlier myself! The last total eclipse in Germany was in 1999 (if I remember correctly). And where I live it was partial – damn it.

  6. I’d really like to see an annular eclipse some day.

  7. Helioprogenus

    Shouldn’t it be the Indian Ocean?

  8. Helioprogenus

    @ Mark,

    Sorry about that, I didn’t see your post before I went ahead with mine.

  9. Man, that’s weird. Of course that’s the Indian ocean. I know that, yet for some reason I wrote out Pacific when I typed it out. That’s really a bit freaky.

  10. Larian,

    You know, many of us Americans DO know our geography. Why put down your fellow countrypersons that way? Let me turn it around a bit: it’s astonishing how many times I’ve been traveling elsewhere in the world and find myself answering questions like “Does it snow year-round in Denver?” and “Can you drive from New York City to Chicago in an afternoon?” and patiently explaining to confused people in several countries that yes, indeed, we do have running water and indoor bathrooms in such places as Texas and Arizona. Ignorance of geography and customs is a world-wide phenom.

  11. Sorry, that was meant as a joke mate. I thought the :p (which was supposed to be a :P ) and the Ambrose Bierce quote would indicate that. My mistake.

    Yes, ignorance of many things is worldwide. :(

  12. Ooooooh! An excuse to build a pinhole camera!

  13. tacitus

    …we do have running water and indoor bathrooms in such places as Texas…

    We do? You’d think after living for 12 years in Texas someone would have told me! Now I know why my friends always start shifting their chairs away from me when I sit next to them.

  14. tacitus

    I remember an old Doonesbury cartoon — from all the way back during the Gulf War, I think — where one of the characters was shipping out to Iraq. Another person asked him “Where’s that?” to which he replied, “Dunno, somewhere near Norway, I think.”

  15. So, I take Phil at his word that it’s the Pacific ocean, so I look to the eastern side of the globe and say to myself…wait…California and some of the American West will get some viewing of it. And then I looked closer and realized that it was Indonesia.

  16. MadScientist

    Damn … a bit late for me to look up I guess. Then again I’ve seen so many partial eclipses. If I could at least see the annulus I would probably make an effort to go outside.

    Watch the spots of light filtering through the leaves of trees – they’ll be in whatever shape the sun appears to have. :) So that’ll either be a crescent, or for people in the right places at the right time, rings! If anyone sees these little rings of light on the ground, take a photo. :)

  17. We’re barely going to get any on the east coast :( It’s going to start JUST before sunset, so Sydneysiders (and most others on the coast, which is… the majority of the country) will only get a few minutes of it.

    Still! Got my piece of paper and binoculars (to focus the image on the paper, not to look through, I’m not that dumb!) ready!

    Oh, and it’s overcast. How lovely. Come on, skies, CLEAR!

  18. Francois

    Eh. Its overcast here (Pretoria, South Africa) so can’t see anything.

  19. José

    But I thought god put the moon at the precise distance from earth it needed to be in order to barely obscure the sun. Everything I know is a lie!

  20. I lived in Mexico in 1984, when there was an annular eclipse. We lived in the north, so my dad drove us ~8 hours that morning (I got to skip school with parental approval!) to get to where the annular eclipse would be visible (in the rest of the country it was seen as partial). We stopped in a field when the eclipse started, and it was a truly great experience, kind of surreal since the light changes in a very strange way and all the animals start behaving as if it was nighttime. I remember you could see little rings of light in the projected light through the leaves of a tree, as you would see it projected through a pinhole.

  21. Lenny

    We can see a reasonable partial eclipse from Perth, right now there is a noticeable bite out of the sun; like Pacman.

  22. Graey

    If it were visible here–Longmont, 10 miles from Boulder–there would have been no way to see it. It’s snowing quite thoroughly, and I couldn’t see 15 meters in front of my car on the drive home this morning.

  23. Speaking of annular eclipses, yesterday’s Astronomy Picture of the Day has a beautiful image from one in 1992.

    <snide_comment>You mean “annular” doesn’t mean “once a year”?</snide_comment> :-)

  24. Paul
  25. Hi! I live in Argentina and our plates are full. We have a total solar eclipse next year, then a combo platter of two total solar eclipses back to back in 2019 and 2020!

    If you care to move South in anticipation we can haelp you find an appartment!!! :)

  26. StevoR

    D’oh! Missed it.

    I should’ve checked this blog earlier .. Didn’t see /hear / read any mention of it or notice anything different here in Adelaide, South Australia.

    Would’ve been better today – its 45.3 degrees celscius in Adelaide (well over 100 Fahrenheit) our cities hottest day in 70 years. :-(

    Something to block out a bit of sunlight now would be very welcome – one of those days I wish our Sun was a lot more like Alpha Centauri B than Alpha Centauri A .. ;-)

    (Not Alpha Centauri C a.k.a. Proxima Cen though – that’d be taking things a bit too far! ;-) )

  27. A friend of mine photographed it though – click on my name for the link to his eclipse photo.

  28. Martin Lewicki’s site (linked on my name here) also has a great animation of the event as viewed from my home town of Adelaide, South Oz. Its pretty neat and you don’t even burn your eyes out watching it! ;-)

    Remember folks, always use the solar filter!

    Case anyone’s curious its after midnight & still 30+ and we’ve just had our hottest day in 70 years and thrid hottest ever recorded – 45.7 degrees Celscius and tomorrow it’s forecast to be 44 with a string of many more days over 40. Unless other Adelaideans are also online now I imagine this probably makes me the hottest blogee (if that’s the term) here at present? ;-)

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