Saturday, May 12, 2012

See the Ring of Fire! Next Sunday.

Image courtesy of Bart Benjamin

On Sunday, May 20, folks in the right spot will see the Sun become a ring of fire. While not as spectacular as a total solar eclipse, an annular solar eclipse is still a sight to behold. The upcoming eclipse will be visible on the east coast of China, east coast of Japan, and parts of Oregon, California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas.

In the Bay Area, the solar eclipse will be partial. If you drive two and a half hours in the right direction, you'll get a short view of the ring of fire. A little over three hours, and you'll see up to 4 minutes. If you drive about four hours, and you'll see almost 5 minutes.

So, where will Pam and I go to watch the eclipse? The Chico Community Observatory is hosting an eclipse viewing at their location in Chico's Bidwell Park. The observatory will have additional solar telescopes provided by the Sierra Star Gazers and docents on hand to answer questions. You don't need a telescope to enjoy the eclipse; all you need is proper protection for your eyes. The observatory will be selling safe solar viewing glasses for $3.00 each or four for $10.00. (All proceeds go to the observatory’s operating fund.) Before the event, UC Berkeley Astronomy Professor Alex Filipenko will give a free lecture entitled, "Today's Annular Solar Eclipse, the June 5 Transit of Venus, and the Search for Transiting Exoplanets." Professor Filipenko will also be watching the eclipse from the observatory. If it's good enough for him, it's good enough for us.

As if a good viewing opportunity wasn't enough, Chico is also home to Sierra Nevada Brewing. So the plan is to have a lunch at the taproom and then head over to the park to watch the eclipse. The Moon will start appearing to "take a bite out of the Sun" at 5:13. The ring of fire (which will last for 3 1/2 minutes) starts at 6:28. The eclipse ends at 7:37. Sunset is at 8:19 PM.

So, who's up for joining us?