Mark Your Calendars: The “Ring of Fire” Annular Solar Eclipse 2023

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Mark Your Calendars: The “Ring of Fire” Annular Solar Eclipse 2023

Save the date! On Saturday, October 14, 2023, the Americas will be treated to a spectacular annular solar eclipse. Many of you might remember the 2017 Great American Solar Eclipse that crossed the United States from the Northwest to the Southeast. That was a grandiose total solar eclipse during which the sun was completely obscured by the moon. The October 2023 event is an annular eclipse, producing a “ring of fire” that will cross from the West Coast and head Southeast through Texas.

SAFTEY FIRST!

Do NOT view a solar eclipse with unprotected eyes. Permanent damage to your vision may occur. Special eclipse-viewing glasses are needed to protect your vision. The protection afforded by regular sunglasses is insufficient.

This October 2023 annular solar eclipse is not a total solar eclipse. However, annular and partial solar eclipses require your eyes and camera(s) to be protected for the duration of the event.

A total solar eclipse offers a brief period of time when the phenomenon can be viewed without protective glasses or equipment. Since the sun is not totally obscured during an annular or partial eclipse, you cannot safely view the event without solar viewing glasses.

What causes a Solar Eclipse?

A solar eclipse happens when the moon passes between the earth and the sun in a path that positions the moon right in front of the sun. The moon, sun, and earth are directly aligned.

The moon passes between the earth and the sun on every lunar cycle (28 days); this is the “New moon.” However, since the moon’s orbit is offset from the earth’s orbit around the sun by 5 degrees, the shadow cast by the moon does not always fall on the earth.

Depending on the orbit of the moon (its distance from the earth and its path), an eclipse is categorized as total, annular, or partial. In a total eclipse, the entire sun will be obscured by the moon. An annular eclipse occurs when the moon passes directly between the earth and sun, but is too far away to completely cover the sun, resulting in the “ring of fire” effect. And a partial eclipse happens when the moon only blocks a part of the sun. Partial eclipses are the most common.

The May 20, 2012 annular solar eclipse as viewed from a mostly cloudy San Diego, California.
The May 20, 2012 annular solar eclipse as viewed from a mostly cloudy San Diego, CaliforniaTodd Vorenkamp

Where are the best places to view the October 2023 annular eclipse?

Eclipses generally happen a few times each year, but they are often only visible over the ocean or in remote areas. Like a total eclipse, the duration of an annular eclipse is short; therefore, the path of totality and/or a full annular eclipse is only viewable over a small section of the Earth each time it happens. However, you can still view part of the eclipse (appearing like a partial eclipse) from the areas to the right and left of the sun’s path across the Earth.

The path of the October 14, 2023 annular eclipse will pass through the Western United States, continue over Central America, and enter the Atlantic after a transit of South America. The narrow band shows the path of the full annular eclipse. The gray shaded section shows the area where a partial annular eclipse is visible. Image from the U.S. Naval Observatory.
The path of the October 14, 2023 annular eclipse will pass through the Western United States, continue over Central America, and enter the Atlantic after a transit of South America. The narrow band shows the path of the full annular eclipse. The gray shaded section shows the area where a partial annular eclipse is visible. Image from the U.S. Naval Observatory.

The October 2023 annular eclipse will transit through the United States starting on the Oregon Coast and will pass over the states Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas before heading south through the Gulf of Mexico and onward to Central and South America.

The October 14, 2023 annular eclipse path. Animation by the U.S. Naval Observatory.
The October 14, 2023 annular eclipse path. Animation by the U.S. Naval Observatory.

The show begins over the Pacific Ocean at 1612 hours UTC and the path of the full annular eclipse is 152 miles wide. The event crosses the Oregon Coast four minutes later at 1616 hours UTC (0916 PDT). The period of annularity will last approximately five minutes, depending on your location.

Safety

Again, do NOT view a solar eclipse with unprotected eyes. Permanent damage to your vision may occur. Special solar viewing glasses are needed to protect your vision. The protection afforded by regular sunglasses is insufficient.

Solar viewing glasses are only for unmagnified viewing of the sun.
Solar viewing glasses are only for unmagnified viewing of the sun.

Solar Viewing Gear

The easiest way to enjoy the annular eclipse is with a pair of inexpensive solar viewing glasses.

For those wishing to take in a magnified view through binoculars, a spotting scope, or a telescope, additional solar viewing protection will be needed.

DO NOT view an eclipse through magnified optics using solar glasses!

B&H also carries a lineup of dedicated solar viewing scopes and binoculars.

Please view our Solar Observing Catalog and our Solar Viewing Buying Guide for more on what equipment you might want to use.

A telescope with solar filter attached.
A telescope with solar filter attached.

Photographing the Annular Eclipse

Yes! You can photograph this event… with the right gear. For more information on how to photograph a solar eclipse, please enjoy “How to Photograph a Solar Eclipse.”

Enjoy the show and let us know in the Comments section, below, if you have any questions about eclipses or the event on October 14, 2023.

For the quickest way to get your solar viewing and solar eclipse gear, check out our Solar Observing page!

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