April 4, 2020

Astro Event of the Week: January 26th-February 1st, 2009; An Annular Eclipse.

This week’s event is a rare annular eclipse of the Sun. The first eclipse of the year, this one traverses Borneo, Sumatra and the Mid-Indian Ocean. Folks from India and Southeast Asia to South Africa, Antarctica, and Australia will see varying degrees of partiality.

The entire eclipse spans from 6:00-10:00 Universal time on Monday, the 26th of January; if you find yourself in the mid Indian Ocean or the jungles of Borneo around this time, by all means take a peak (and drop us a line!) Don’t forget to use the proper protection, such as a white light filter when viewing all stages of this eclipse; even during annularity, the Sun can pack quite an optical punch! This eclipse is a direct consequence of our largest Full Moon of the month a few weeks back; the Moon is now near apogee, and hence, too small to cover the Sun. Doubtless, a brief hunt around the Web will yield somebody broadcasting the event, that is if you feel like getting up at 1 AM EST to watch it! Incidentally, later that night is a good chance to catch an extremely New Moon from the US east coast; at 14 hours new, its may not be a record, but probably a personal best! The angle of the ecliptic will be favorable with a northward tilt for this tough challenge.

This week’s astro word of the week is Annular Eclipse. This type of solar eclipse occurs when the disk of the Moon, as viewed from the Earth, is too tiny to completely cover the Sun. Thus results in a bright ring, or annulus. This can be surprisingly luminous, as I observed over the central US during the eclipse of 1994. Even less than 1% of the Sun’s collective light is still much brighter than a Full Moon. Perhaps a weird tinting effect to the surrounding environment may be observed.   Watch for little crescents shinning on the ground cast by gaps in tree leaves; spaghetti strainers are also great for creating this effect. And watch for that New Moon!

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