Ring of Fire
October 12, 2023
October 12, 2023
You know about the upcoming eclipses, right? If not, you will in a minute!
North America is blessed with TWO eclipses in quick succession: An annular eclipse this Saturday, October 14, and the Great North American Solar Eclipse just 177 days later, on April 8.
This Saturday's "ring of fire" eclipse runs through parts of Oregon, California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. The Moon is a bit too far away from the Earth right now to block the sun's light completely during Saturday's eclipse, so the world will not actually go dark during maximum; you'll need to wear your eclipse glasses or view it through a homemade pinhole projector no matter where you view it from in North America, the entire time. For those in the path, the sun will look like a ring of fire around the moon; everyone else in North America will experience a partial eclipse. Find eclipse times for your city here. Everyone who doesn't have cloud cover on Saturday will see a version of this:
Then, 177 days later, on April 8, 2024, we'll be treated to an exquisite total solar eclipse. The path of totality will run through parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. Everyone in North America will experience at least a partial eclipse, but for the plus-or-minus 4 minutes of totality in April, the world of those in the path will go dark. Taking off your eclipse glasses (during the few minutes of totality on April 8 only), you'll experience the Sun, the Moon, the Earth, and yourself as you never have before.
So what is the big deal about an eclipse? I was a skeptic, too, until I drove with my daughter Ella to the 2017 eclipse in Missouri. After 2 minutes of totality, I emerged forever changed. (See my short essay 99% is Not Totality to read what it was like.) A total solar eclipse is unlike anything else you'll ever experience: You understand the science of our solar system at a deep human level, not just with your brain, but with your whole body. The next opportunity for a total solar eclipse after April 8 will not be for another 21 years in the continental U.S. You have 179 days to plan to get into (or stay in, depending on where you live) the path of totality. You may be a skeptic now, but you'll be telling your family's eclipse story for years to come.