April 9, 2020

Astro-Vid Of the Week: Stalking the Elusive Annular Eclipse

A simulation of the April 29th eclipse from 1 km above the Arctic.

Created using Stellarium.

This Tuesday, a “ring of fire” annular eclipse will occur that no human eye will witness. This is because the path of the April 29th annular eclipse only briefly touches down for just over 12 minutes over a remote area of Antarctica. In fact, the central part of the Moon’s shadow — known as the “antumbra”— will be for the most part cast off into space, missing our planet entirely.

We wrote recently about the bizarre circumstances surrounding this curious solar eclipse. And although no one will see the annular portion, the entire continent of Australia and islands scattered across the southern Indian Ocean will see a fine partial solar eclipse.

But how about… from space? Well, we ran some simulations, and ESA’s Proba-2 solar observatory and the joint NASA/JAXA mission Hinode may just “thread the keyhole” and witness a very brief — measured in seconds — annular eclipse.

And perhaps, its just possible that they may actually witness a brief total eclipse from space, as they plunge very briefly into the Moon’s umbra. The maximal coverage projected from the ground in Antarctica is 98.68%, although the annular eclipsed Sun will be sitting smack on the horizon.

But do not despair; two more eclipses are on tap for 2014. Incidentally, four is the minimum number of eclipses that can occur in a calendar year, 2 lunar and 2 solar. Anyhow, next up is another total lunar eclipse on October 8th, 2014 and the final eclipse of the year is a partial solar eclipse on October 23rd, 2014. Western North America will have front row seats for both events. And although the Moon’s umbra just teases us during the October 23 solar eclipse, by that date we’ll be within three years of THE big ticket event: a total eclipse of the Sun crossing the continental United States on August 21st, 2017!

Pick your observing site now!

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