What Causes Annular Eclipses?
Annular eclipses, those mesmerizing celestial events where the Sun transforms into a blazing ring, have captivated the imagination of sky gazers for centuries. But what exactly causes this intriguing phenomenon? Let's delve into the science behind annular eclipses.
An annular eclipse occurs when the Moon, positioned between the Earth and the Sun, is at a relatively farther distance from Earth in its elliptical orbit. This causes the Moon to appear smaller in the sky, unable to entirely cover the Sun's disc during the eclipse. As a result, a bright ring, or "ring of fire," is formed around the silhouette of the Moon. Likewise, because the Moon does not fully obscure the Sun during this type and phase of eclipse, a viewer must wear eclipse glasses to safely view it. The ring of fire will still be too bright to safely view without eclipse glasss.
The fundamental reason behind annular eclipses is the apparent difference in size between the Sun and the Moon. Although the Sun is about 400 times larger in diameter than the Moon, it is also about 400 times farther away from Earth. This remarkable coincidence leads to the Sun and the Moon appearing nearly the same size in the sky. However, their varying distances during different points in their orbits create the conditions for annular eclipses to take place.
As the Moon's orbit is not a perfect circle, its distance from Earth fluctuates, causing the occurrence of both total and annular eclipses. Annular eclipses serve as a striking reminder of the intricate dance of celestial bodies and the wonders of our universe, providing yet another reason to look up and marvel at the celestial spectacle above.
An annular eclipse will grace the west coast and southwest regions of the United States on October 14th, 2023. Those wishing to view the eclipse are encouraged to buy their eclipse glasses now as this will be the last west coast eclipse for 20 years.