You've probably seen so many that you hardly notice any more. But, if you live in North America, pay attention next Monday for something extraordinary as twilight approaches.
The setting Sun will be a crescent.
Above: On Dec. 14, 2001, George W. Fleenor captured this image of a partially eclipsed Sun setting at Siesta Beach in Sarasota, Florida. [more]
If you decide to skip dessert and dash outside for a glimpse, don't look directly at the eclipse. Even when our star is partially covered, it's still bright enough to blind you. Instead, use a safe solar filter like #14 or higher welding glasses to protect your eyes.
Better yet, project an image of the Sun onto a screen through binoculars or a telescope. But, be careful! Never look through the optics. Keep your eyes on the projection screen, not on the eyepiece. Adjust the focus knob until projected sunspots appear crisp and sharp. Almost anything can serve as a screen -- a paper plate or a light-colored wall, for example.
Eclipses that happen low in the sky are easy to observe indoors, too. Simply find a room with a west-facing window and draw the shades. Any tiny crack or opening will cast an outline of the crescent Sun onto the far wall.
Above: projecting an image of the Sun is a safe and sometimes artistic way to experience an eclipse. These images were captured by Science@NASA readers (left to right) Matt Sharpe, Evan J. Gnam, and Ben Walden during the 2000 Christmas eclipse. [more]
The partial eclipse will last about two hours. Unfortunately, sky watchers along the eastern edge of North America won't see any of it. In Miami, Washington D.C. and New York City, for example, the eclipse begins and ends after nightfall. However, almost everyone in the United States west of Atlanta can see some of the event (weather permitting). Observers in the south and central U.S. are best-placed to see a deep eclipse at sunset.
Above: Eclipse times for selected US cities. Percentages denote how much of the Sun will be covered at maximum. More eclipse times: United States, Canada, Mexico, Asia and the Pacific Ocean.
There are a few places, mostly in the Pacific Ocean, where the Moon will cross the Sun dead-center on June 10th (or June 11th, because of the International Date Line). For about one minute, a bright "ring of fire" will surround the Moon. It's what astronomers call an annular eclipse.
The "path of annularity" is long and narrow. It stretches nearly 15,000 km across the Pacific Ocean -- from the coast of Mexico near Puerto Vallarta to the waters east of Indonesia. Only a few Pacific islands (Saipan and Tinian are the largest among them) lie inside the path, which is barely 78 km across at its widest point. Guam is nearby but not quite inside. Sky watchers there will experience a deep partial eclipse, with 97.5% of the Sun covered.
Annular eclipses shouldn't be confused with total eclipses. Total eclipses happen when the Moon completely covers the Sun's surface. Then, the faint solar corona springs into view -- a breathtaking sight by all accounts. On June 10th, the Moon is too small to cover the whole Sun. The Sun's dazzling outer limb will peek out all around the Moon. It will be very bright, and eye safety measures are essential.
Relatively few people will experience the annular phase of this month's eclipse. It's simply too remote. Nevertheless, plenty of sky watchers in North America will enjoy the partial phase: a lovely and very weird sunset. Don't miss it!
Editor's note: This story is crafted for North Americans and stresses the view from the continental United States. For additional details about the eclipse in other parts of the world see "June's Transpacific Solar Eclipse" from Sky & Telescope (external site).more information
Safe Solar Observing: Do-it-yourself Sunspot Watching (SpaceWeather.com); How to View an Eclipse (San Francisco Exploratorium); Observing Eclipses Safely (Mr. Eclipse.com)
Annular Solar Eclipse of June 10th, 2002 -- (GSFC) detailed information about the eclipse from Goddard's Fred Espenak.
Above: Click to view a full-sized map of eclipse circumstances across North America.
June's Transpacific Solar Eclipse -- (Sky & Telescope) If you enjoy watching sunsets, you have all the more reason to do so on June 10th.
Solar Eclipse Photo Galleries -- (SpaceWeather.com) Dec. 14, 2001; Dec. 25, 2000; June 21, 2001. Want to take your own photos? Check out these solar eclipse photo tips.
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