How To Watch The Solar Eclipse

May 19, 2012
Originally published on May 19, 2012 10:19 am

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

If you're in the Western United States tomorrow afternoon, you're in for a show.

DEE FRIESEN: The disc of the sun will be a ring. The moon will be inside the sun. There will be a ring of light around the moon, and they sometimes call it a ring of fire.

SIMON: A ring of fire. That's astronomer Dee Friesen describing what a lot of people out west are hoping to see on Sunday, weather permitting. Mr. Friesen is President of the Astronomical Society of Albuquerque, which is projected to be one of the primo spots to viewing the event - right in the center line of the moon shadow. He says there won't be a total eclipse but something called an annular eclipse of the sun.

FRIESEN: What makes this sun different from what most people think of an eclipse is that the orbit of the moon is an ellipse. And for this particular geometry of this eclipse, the moon will be a bit further away from the Earth than it normally is. In this case, the disc of the moon will not be quite large enough to completely cover the disc of the sun.

SIMON: And that's the ring of fire. The whole phenomenon will go by in four minutes and 26 seconds, just before sunset in New Mexico. Dee Friesen says:

FRIESEN: There is a lot of excitement. This has moved from being a story that the weatherman talks about to a story that is one of the lead features for the newscast. There are going to be eclipse parties. People are trying to figure out how they're going to view this. And, of course, viewing safely is very important.

SIMON: Now, the rules for viewing are unchanged from the ones you may have heard when you were a child. First and foremost, don't look directly at the sun, especially with binoculars or a telescope. Mr. Friesen suggests making a pinhole camera.

FRIESEN: You just take some object, punch a real tiny hole in it and then project an image onto an object behind. And you'll see a projection of the sun. And incidentally, to do that you actually have your back to the sun so there's no danger of damage.

SIMON: If you can't make this eclipse out west, you might begin to make plans for the next one: August 21, 2017. But the next ring of fire not until 2023. And Dee Friesen notes:

FRIESEN: Interestingly enough, it also goes right through Albuquerque. So, if we don't do it right this time, in 11 years, we can try again. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.