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“Ring of Fire” eclipse of the sun visible from Australia, Antarctica

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ringoffire1This morning the second eclipse of 2014 occurred, an annular solar eclipse. Only 64% of the sun was obscured by the moon during the event, and that was only visible in parts of Australia and Antarctica.

Eclipses of the sun happen during the times the moon’s orbit takes it in between sun and Earth at just the right angle to cover the sun’s disk. Due to the 5 degree tilt of the satellite’s path around the Earth, as well as that orbit not being circular but elliptical, the monthly occurrence of the moon being situated at the right place only results in an actual solar eclipse a few times each year.

When the sun is totally eclipsed by the moon, the disk of the moon fits right over the disk of the sun, allowing only the outside ring of the sun’s atmosphere, the corona, to be visible from the Earth. A partial eclipse, is when, because of the tilt of its orbit, the moon doesn’t cover the sun precisely, and a shadow called a penumbra is seen on Earth. ringoffire2

During an annular eclipse such as today’s, the moon lines up exactly with the sun, but the moon is at too great a distance from the Earth (too close to the sun) to obscure the sun completely, and what’s called an antumbral shadow is seen around the darkest portion of the moon’s shadow. This is what causes the “Ring of Fire” to be seen on Earth.

This time, the ring can only be seen from remote and unpopulated parts of Antarctica.

As always, we are reminded to never look directly at the sun, even during a total eclipse, to prevent serious damage to the eyes.

ringoffire3The next eclipse in 2014 will be the lunar one on October 8. The second solar eclipse will be seen on October 23.

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