On October 14, skywatchers in the United States, Central America, and South America will have the opportunity to witness an annular solar eclipse, often referred to as a “ring of fire” eclipse due to its distinctive appearance.
Annular eclipses occur when the moon’s apparent size in the sky is slightly smaller than that of the sun. This alignment results in a stunning ring of sunlight encircling the edges of the moon.
Solar eclipses transpire when the moon passes between the sun and Earth, casting a shadow on a portion of our planet. However, the moon’s elliptical orbit causes its apparent size in the sky to vary. Total solar eclipses happen when the moon is close enough to Earth to entirely cover the sun, while annular eclipses occur when all three celestial bodies align perfectly, but the moon is slightly farther away and doesn’t completely obscure the sun.
During the peak of the October 14 eclipse, the moon will block out 91 percent of the sun’s disk.
This celestial spectacle will be visible in the western United States, with the eclipse’s path extending through Mexico, Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, and Colombia before reaching Brazil.
The ideal locations to witness the 2023 eclipse in the US will be within a narrow strip on Earth, approximately 200 kilometers wide. These prime viewing spots will offer up to five minutes and 17 seconds of eclipse visibility, presenting the mesmerizing “ring of fire” effect.
Outside this path, areas will experience a partial solar eclipse, without the distinctive ring-like appearance.
The partial eclipse will be observable across a vast area, including most of the United States, Canada, South America, and the western edge of Africa.
In the US, states within the eclipse’s viewing path encompass Oregon, Idaho, California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas.
Annular solar eclipses occur globally every year or two, similar in frequency to total solar eclipses. The next total eclipse is scheduled for April 8, 2024, following a path that closely resembles the trajectory of the upcoming “ring of fire” eclipse, traversing a significant portion of the Americas.