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Everything You Need to Know About the 2023 Annular Solar Eclipse
October's annular solar eclipse will be visible from parts of North, Central, and South America. Here's what you need to know.
In the science fiction horror classic Pitch Black (streaming now on SYFY!), the spaceship Hunter-Gratzner crash lands on the mysterious planet M6-117. The survivors of the crash, including the wild-eyed prisoner Richard B. Riddick (Vin Deisel) find the remains of an abandoned scientific research station and a bloodthirsty species of monsters who only come out at night.
Fortunately, M6-117 is perched in a triple star system, beneath the nearly endless light of three suns. Only a rare celestial event, involving multiple large nearby planets, ever blocks out all three stars at the same time. That’s when the monsters come.
Eclipses on Earth are much more common than on M6-117, although still rare. Lucky for us, they are opportunities to marvel at the wonder of the cosmos without any ravenous underground beasts. And your next opportunity to see one is coming up October 14, 2023.
The Annular Solar Eclipse of October 2023
There are between three and five solar eclipses every calendar year, depending on how the orbits of the Earth and Moon line up. Unlike M6-117, where a bizarre set of circumstances completely blocks out all three stars, eclipses on Earth only block out the Sun along the thin line of the Moon’s shadow.
Moreover, there are three different basic types of eclipses (and one super rare hybrid kind), all of which depend on how the Moon’s shadow falls across the planet. The first and most famous is the total solar eclipse, which is more or less what it sounds like. During a total solar eclipse, the Moon completely blocks out the Sun, leaving only its corona visible as a diffuse halo around the Moon.
We get total solar eclipses through a happy coincidence of our solar system’s setup. The Moon has a diameter roughly 400 times smaller than the Sun and it is, on average, 400 times closer to us, which means they both have the same apparent size in the sky. When things line up nicely, the Moon perfectly blocks out the Sun in a total solar eclipse.
Next are partial eclipses. These happen when the orbits don’t line up quite right. Instead of blocking out the Sun completely, the Moon dips into the area of the Sun, creating a crescent, then dips out again. The last common type of eclipse is an annular solar eclipse, and it’s what you’ll see on October 14.
We get annular eclipses because the Moon doesn’t orbit the Earth in a perfect circle. Instead, the orbit is ovular, with certain points being slightly farther away than others. During an annular eclipse, the Moon is at its farthest point from the Earth. As a result, it has a smaller apparent size in the sky and is too small to fully obscure the Sun when it passes in front of it.
Instead, the Moon will look like a large drifting pupil moving across the eye of the Sun. Importantly, because the Moon never totally blocks the Sun, there is no totality and no safe time to look at the eclipse without protective eyewear.
Where to See the 2023 Annular Solar Eclipse
While the upcoming annular solar eclipse won’t offer totality, it will still be a beautiful celestial sight, worth seeking out if you are in or near the path. You’ll be able to see the so-called ring of fire surrounding the Moon from parts of North, Central, and South America.
The eclipse will start at the northwestern tip of North America and travel southeast toward the Atlantic. It will first be visible from Oregon, before traveling in a line across North America to Texas. Along the way, it will pass over parts of California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico. If you’re in North America, the eclipse will start at 9:13 a.m. PT in Oregon and end at 12:03 p.m. CT in Texas.
Next, it will cut across Central and South America, visiting parts of Mexico, Belize, Honduras, Panama, Colombia, and Brazil. Wherever you’re watching, the entire eclipse, from the first hint of the Moon’s shadow until the end, will last a little more than two hours.
If you miss the upcoming annular eclipse, you’ll have an opportunity to see a total solar eclipse across parts of North and Central America on April 8, 2024.
Get your eclipse preparations in order with Pitch Black, streaming now on SYFY!