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Saturday’s ‘Ring of Fire’ annular eclipse beckons to photogs

Total solar eclipses are truly spectacular and are a must-see for any serious student of photography.

Annular eclipses are less spectacular, but present their own intrinsic beauty – that is, the so-called “ring of fire.” If within driving distance, they are worthwhile viewing.

This Saturday, viewers in eight western states – from Oregon to Texas – will be treated to the first annual eclipse in the United States since May 20, 2012.

A solar eclipse occurs when the Moon comes between the Earth and the Sun. A total solar eclipse takes place when the Moon completely blocks out the Sun’s glare, thus allowing the solar corona, the Sun’s tenuous outer atmosphere, to become visible.

An annular eclipse occurs when the Moon is farthest from the Earth in its orbit and appears smaller than the solar disk and thus does not completely cover it. Instead, the Moon’s dark image fits inside that of the Sun, leaving an outer ring of exposed sunlight to filter through to viewers along the eclipse path on Earth.

Viewers in San Diego County will see a partial eclipse because of the geographic alignment. The path of annularity passes well north and to the east of Southern California. About 76 percent of the solar disk will be blocked by the Moon’s incursion as seen from here.

Saturday’s eclipse path runs through southwestern Oregon, a small sliver of Northern California, northern Nevada and down through southern Utah to the Four Corners region. Viewers in New Mexico and Texas may get the best of the event. The eclipse paths includes such large metropolitan areas as Santa Fe, N.M., Albuquerque and San Antonio.

During maximum eclipse the Sun will appear as a slender but still brilliant ring. Just prior to total immersion and upon egress, sunlight will pass through mountains and valleys along the Moon’s limb, creating a phenomenon known as “Bailey’s Beads.”

Selected maximum duration times include Corpus Christi (four minutes, 52 seconds), Roswell, N.M. (four minutes, 27 seconds), Albuquerque (4 minutes, 42 seconds), Odessa, Tex. (four minutes, 33 seconds), Bryce Canyon national park in Utah (two minutes, 52 seconds), Elko, Nev. (four minutes, five seconds), Tule Lake, Calif. (two minutes, 26 seconds) and Crater Lake national park in Oregon (four minutes, 22 seconds).

The eclipse path crosses several national park locations, making for a scenic juxtaposition.

Eclipse maps, as well as online viewing links, can be found at and

Saturday’s eclipse will last about two-and-a-half hours for local viewers. First contact with the Moon’s disk occurs at 8:09 a.m. Mid-eclipse is scheduled to take place at 9:26. The last part of the Moon’s disk slides off the Sun at 10:52.

The Sun will remain bright during all phases of the partial eclipse and proper viewing precaution should be exercised when looking directly at the Sun. A dark welder’s glass or solar filter should be used for direct viewing while safe indirect viewing can be set up with a telescope projection screen.

For some individuals, Saturday’s annular eclipse could be a once-in-a-lifetime event. The next annular eclipse to cross the continental United States is not slated to happen until 2046.

However, a total solar eclipse will grace skies on April 8, 2024. The path will run from northeast from Texas to Maine. San Diego will once again be excluded, so it’s time to set up travel plans.

For some, it will be another once-in-a-lifetime event.

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