Sunday, May 20, 2012

Eclipse Today, May 20, 2012, When, Where, What, How, Maps, Video

Everything you need to know about today's annular eclipse: 
When, Where, What and How

"The ring of fire:" Astrophotographer Dennis L. Mammana photographed this annular eclipse behind palm trees in January 1994.  
Today, the Moon will pass between Earth and the Sun, giving rise to what sky-watchers call an annular eclipse. Also known as a "ring of fire" eclipse , it's the first annular eclipse to be visible from the continental U.S. in close to 20 years. Here's what you need to know.

If you're located in the eastern half of the U.S., you'll miss it because of sunset, but anyone west of Wisconsin down to Texas all the way over to southeast Asia can click on the map from NASA and Google to find out exactly when the moon will pass in front of the sun, covering as much as 94 percent of it.

This close-up of North America (via Sky & Telescope) shows the small band of the American southwest from which the annular eclipse will be clearly visible. Here, via, are a few locations that fall within this strip of geography, and the times at which the Moon will be most centered over the Sun's face:

Albuquerque, NM: 7:36 p.m. MDT
Eureka, CA: 6:28 p.m. PDT
Lubbock, TX: 8:36 p.m. CDT
Medford, OR: 6:26 p.m. PDT
Reno, NV: 6:31 p.m. PDT

In the United States, the eclipse begins around 5:30 p.m. PDT and if you're near the center-line of the eclipse, which runs from Northern California through Northern Texas, for about 4.5 minutes you'll be able to see a "ring of fire," which will look as if the sun has a black hole in its middle(see picture at top).

"Because some of the sun is always exposed during the eclipse, ambient daylight won't seem much different than usual. Instead, the event will reveal itself in the shadows,” writes Dr. Tony Phillips for 
NASA's Science News.

How to Watch Safely

One of the benefits to watching the eclipse online, rather than in-person, is not having to worry about taking precautions when actually viewing the eclipse. Looking directly at the Sun — even during an eclipse, and, yes, even with sunglasses — is an awful, awful idea, and can permanently damage your vision.

To safely view the eclipse, you'll want to go buy a solar filter. These come in a variety of forms, from wearable solar shades, to attachments that you can affix to telescopes and binoculars. They'll cut the brightness by enough that you'll be able to catch glimpses of the Sun without frying your retinas

If it's last minute or buying a solar filter isn't an option, Sky and Telescope has detailed instructions for viewing the eclipse with a variety of pinhole projection techniques. (The photograph featured here shows how skygazers in Madrid used projection techniques to view an annular eclipse back in 2005.) Here's the simplest one:

Poke a small hole in an index card with a pencil point, face it toward the Sun, and hold a second card three or four feet behind it in its shadow. The hole will project a small image of the Sun's disk onto the lower card. This image will go through all the phases of the eclipse, just as the real Sun does. Experiment with different size holes. A large hole makes the image bright but fuzzy; a small hole makes it dim but sharp. the ever-popular pinhole projector technique.

Take precautions, stay safe and enjoy the rare event.

Eclipse May 20, 2012, When, Where, What, How, Maps, Video, Today
For more details on how to watch safely click here.
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