On Sunday, West Coast residents will get the chance to observe a fascinating natural phenomenon: an annular eclipse.
Also known as a “ring of fire” eclipse, because the moon eclipses 85% of the sun, leaving behind a burning ring, the event will be visible from California to west Texas (sorry, East Coast!).
NASA reports that this is the first annular eclipse since 1994, and although it doesn’t create the twilight that a total eclipse does, it’s still a fascinating event.
“I like to compare different types of eclipses on a scale of of 1 to 10 as visual spectacles,” says NASA eclipse expert Fred Espenak. “If a partial eclipse is a 5, then an annular eclipse is a 9.”
Although most of the sun will be blocked during the eclipse, it’s still dangerous to look directly at it, because the remaining ring will be blindingly bright. Instead, NASA recommends viewing the event through a solar filter, or using a projection technique. One cool aspect that won’t require a filter? During an annular eclipse, sunbeams turn into rings of light that are visible on the ground beneath a leafy tree.
“One of the unique things about this eclipse for watchers in the USA is that the sun will still be in deep partial eclipse at sunset, making for some great photographic opportunities,” says Espenak. “In Western Texas, around Lubbock, the sun actually sets during the annular phase.”
For more info on specific times and locations to catch the eclipse, check out this Science at NASA video.