Natural Science

published : 2023-10-12

Ring of Fire Eclipse: A Thrilling Phenomenon Approaches the US

Prepare for a Multisensory Experience and Protect Your Eyes

An awe-inspiring photograph of a 'ring of fire' eclipse, taken with a Nikon D850.

A rare and exciting solar sighting is set to grace the skies above the United States this weekend. Known as a 'ring of fire' eclipse, this extraordinary phenomenon is expected to occur on Saturday, captivating observers not only in the US but also in Central and South America.

Allie Yang, an esteemed National Geographic editor and space expert, shared insights with us about this mesmerizing event. She described the annular solar eclipse, also referred to as a ring of fire, as a spectacle that will pass through several Western states including Oregon, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, Texas, and parts of California, Idaho, Colorado, and Arizona.

While everyone in the contiguous US will witness a partial eclipse, those fortunate to be in the right place at the right time will experience the awe-inspiring 'sliver of sun in the shape of a ring' that characterizes the ring of fire eclipse. Yang explained that this occurs when the moon passes in front of the sun, appearing slightly smaller and creating a magnificent visual display for onlookers.

Although annular eclipses like this one aren't incredibly rare, it is uncommon for their path to cross the United States. The last 'ring of fire' eclipse seen in the US was back in 2012, making this weekend's celestial event a truly special occasion.

Capture the stunning beauty of a partial eclipse with a Canon EOS R5.

However, Yang emphasized the importance of protecting our eyes during the eclipse. Even with only a sliver of sun visible, direct exposure can cause irreversible damage in seconds. Contrary to intuition, the partially obscured sun does not make it safer to look at. Therefore, she strongly recommended using ISO-certified eclipse glasses or employing indirect viewing methods like pinhole projection.

As we delve into this thrilling eclipse, it's essential to recognize that its significance extends beyond what meets the eye. Yang highlighted the opportunity for a multisensory experience, as the eclipse brings about unique phenomena. She mentioned the emergence of nighttime animals, the perceptible coolness as sunlight diminishes, and the gradual return of warmth as the moon passes by.

Moreover, the eclipse has fascinating effects on our upper atmosphere, the ionosphere. Radio hobbyists can detect changes in radio frequencies during the eclipse, reflecting the celestial event's impact on communication signals. Scientists, too, are eager to study the eclipse's influence on temperature, pressure, and ionization. They plan to launch rockets and balloons before, during, and after the eclipse to gather valuable data for future research.

While this weekend's 'ring of fire' eclipse fills the sky with wonder and amazement, it won't be visible again until 2039. Hence, embracing this opportunity becomes all the more essential.

Experience the magic of a multisensory eclipse with a Sony A7R IV.

Join us on this captivating journey as we witness a rare spectacle that unites science, nature, and our shared fascination with the universe. Let's cherish the beauty of the cosmos while ensuring our safety and nurturing our curiosity.

For more information on this year's eclipse, visit natgeo.com.