Friday, May 30, 2003

Strange Solar Eclipse on May 31

A partial eclipse of the Sun surrounded by strange circumstances is on tap for Saturday, May 31 and will be visible in parts of North America, Europe and the Middle East. The event could be quite spectacular at sunrise in Europe, especially in the United Kingdom. Looking directly at the Sun is dangerous, so proper viewing techniques (below) are necessary. The most impressive aspect of the event will be an annular, or ring eclipse, so named because the Moon’s disk will be too small to completely cover the Sun’s disk. The result is a ring of fire surrounding the black circle of the Moon. It's like a dull penny sitting atop a shiny nickel. Annular eclipses can occur because the Moon's orbit around Earth is not quite a circle. When the Moon is closer to Earth than average, a total solar eclipse can occur. When it is farther than average, an annular eclipse can result. The annular eclipse will be visible across a sparsely populated swath of Earth from Scotland to the Canadian Arctic. The extreme northern track of the Moon's shadow will likely make this one of the most unusual solar eclipses that will occur in the 21st century. >>Full story...

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