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spaceSpace and Physics

Stunning "Ring Of Fire" Eclipse Set To End 2019. Here’s How To Watch

author

Katy Evans

Managing Editor

clockDec 23 2019, 21:12 UTC

The spectacular annular eclipse of January 4, 2011, as captured by the Hinode satellite.  NASA/Hinode/XRT CC BY 2.0

What better way to end 2019, or just sum it up really, than with a fiery ring in the sky to remind us that one day our star will engulf Earth. Happy holidays, everyone!

However, if you live in a part of the world that is on the eclipse’s path, it should put on a good show, so do try and get outside to take a peek. If you don’t, or can’t, then don’t worry, various online livestreams will be available.

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So what is a ring of fire, or annular, eclipse?

Annular eclipses are more often referred to as "ring of fire" eclipses for rather obvious reasons. Just like a total solar eclipse, they only occur when a new Moon passes in front of the Sun. However, unlike a total eclipse, where you can only just see the Sun poking out behind it, annular eclipses show the Moon spectacularly backlit with a fiery halo.

This is because ring eclipses occur when the new Moon is at its apogee, the furthest point in its orbit of Earth, which means to those of us who can see it, the Moon appears too small to cover the whole of the Sun. Instead, an annulus, the area between two concentric circles, can be seen as a ring surrounding the Moon’s silhouette.  

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When and where can I see it?

The third and final solar eclipse of the year will occur on December 26, and will be visible only along a narrow strip on the Earth’s surface, although more should be able to see the partial eclipse. If you are in Eastern Europe, Asia, India, northwest Australia, eastern Africa, and the Arab states of the Persian Gulf, you should be in with a chance.

The eclipse will only last for a maximum of 3 minutes and 40 seconds, so it’s worth checking Timeanddate.com or NASA’s eclipse website to look up if you are on the eclipse shadow path and when exactly it will be visible to you. Or you can use this handy gif below. 

content-1577117886-eclipse.gif
The red dot is the path of totality, the shadow is where the partial eclipse should be visible. Fred Espenak/A. T. Sinclair/NASA

How to watch

Reporting on an eclipse wouldn’t be complete without the obligatory – but vitally important because people still ignore it – safety warning to never look at the Sun directly with the naked eye.

Ring eclipses are the most beautiful eclipses, but they are also the most dangerous. The only time it is ever safe to look directly at the Sun is the brief seconds a total solar eclipse occurs and the Sun is fully covered by the Moon. As this doesn’t happen during a ring eclipse, parts of the Sun will always be visible, ready to burn your retinas with its powerful rays.

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There are filters for cameras, binoculars, and telescopes available to help you view it safely, or you can make your own pinhole camera.

Alternatively, you can watch it from the safety of your laptop or smartphone as various observatories and websites will be sharing the live stream on December 26, including IFLScience on our Facebook page. You can also catch it on Timeanddate.com's YouTube channel as well as Slooh's YouTube and website


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