Ring of fire: Rare solar clipse sparks craze in the USA, Japan and China

Solar Eclipse May 2012 excitement at its zenith
Solar Eclipse May 2012 excitement at its zenith

An annular eclipse about to forge a perfect ring is the sight millions desire to watch. On 20 th May solar eclipse will forge perfect ring and those who are lucky enough will observe it across the earth.

Witnessing a total solar eclipse is considered one of our planet’s most spectacular sights, but many who’ve seen both state that a ring-of-fire eclipse is just as dramatic. Hundreds of millions across the world will get a chance to see one on May 20.

On Sunday afternoon on May 20th, the path of an annular solar eclipse will cross parts of eight western states in America. estimates that an projected 6.6 million Americans live within the path of annularity.

Both types of solar eclipses happen when the Moon moves between the Sun and the Earth, blocking out sunlight. A total solar eclipse occurs when the Moon is close enough to our planet to totally obscure the Sun. Meanwhile a ring-of-fire, or annular eclipse, appears when the Moon is further away and does not prevent all sunlight from getting through.

Solar Eclipse May 2012 excitement at its zenith

During an annular eclipse, as the Moon aligns with the Sun, it appears as if there is a black hole in the middle of a burning disc – its name comes from annulus, which means ‘ring’ in Latin.

On average there are about four annular eclipses every five years. But they are always in different places – and there hasn’t been one in the US for 18 years.

This time, the eclipse will start on Sunday night (GMT) in China and Japan, and over the next four hours will travel more than 10,000 km across the Pacific Ocean and onto the United States. But only those lucky enough to be in the 300-kilometer-narrow corridor will be able to observe the solar eclipse.

Sunday’s solar eclipse track starts in East Asia and cross the Pacific Ocean before reaching North America. The US has set up dozens of viewing events in National Parks and observatories across the west of the country. In the United States, the U.S. National Park Service has invited skywatchers to observe the solar eclipse from a national park, while the University of Colorado, at Boulder is opening its Folsom Stadium — a football stadium — to the public in what organizers call the world’s largest solar eclipse viewing party.

Japan has truly exploded in an Solar Eclipse May 2012 craze

Mainstream Japanese TV shows have spent hours discussing the usually neglected topic of astronomy, while popular science books and amateur telescopes have flown off the shelves. The solar eclipse will pass Japan early on Monday morning local time. Cable-cars will run early and boats have been rented to get a better chance for observing the rare ring of fire phenomenon.

But all this is hardly surprising considering one fact: Tokyo has not been exposed to an annular eclipse for 173 years.

Not every country will be as lucky as USA or Japan. Easternmost Russia, South Korea, Philippines, Canada and Mexico will only witness a partial eclipse thus miss the chance to see a perfect ring at the solar eclipse.

As for the annulus itself, you really have to get your timing right. While the sky will get darker, the period when the sun neatly outlines the moon only lasts about five minutes at most.

Weather could spoil view of solar eclipse 2012 ‘s ring of fire

Now there is only one thing to wait for other than the solar eclipse itself – a clear sky. And you will also have to hope that the weather cooperates, for even if the sky is mainly clear there is always the possibility that clouds could lie close to the horizon, which could, of course, spoil all hopes of witnessing the critical moment of ring of fire.

‘ Unfortunately this is monsoon season, and the weather prospects are supposed to be poor,’ says Alan MacRobert, editor of Sky and Telescope magazine.

‘ China and Japan don’t look to be very lucky for this annual solar eclipse. It would take quite a stroke of luck to get a clear sky.’

In fact, the last time there was a ring of fire solar eclipse scheduled for the US West Coast in 1992, the event turned out to be something of a damp squib.

Solar eclipse 2012 expected to forge ring of firewatchable if the horizon is clear and flat : Weather forecast 20 May

The most intriguing possibility is to see the sun mimic a ring of fire as it is about to set, which makes an already striking sky event all the more dramatic. There’s the possibility of vivid sunset colors, other interesting atmospheric phenomena, and beautiful foreground scenery. Prognosticatively, in the case of a setting sun any calculation assumes you have a clear, flat horizon. Any foreground obstructions in the west-northwest (at about azimuth 295 degrees) will put a premature end to the sun’s visibility.

Back then, 15,000 people gathered at the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles only to end up looking at a nondescript cloudy sky, before dispersing meekly.

This time, California will once again be the best place to watch the eclipse, but astronomers at Griffith are warning amateurs to temper their expectations, while hoping the skies will prove kinder this time on 20th May.

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