This Weekend’s Solar Eclipse Will Be First Like It Since 1994

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May 16 2012 5:12 PM

This Weekend’s Solar Eclipse Will Be First Like It Since 1994

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A solar eclipse May 21 is the first of its kind since 1994, visible from a wide area of Earth.

Photo by DAMIEN MEYER/AFP/Getty Images

Keep your eyes to the skies this weekend—a special solar eclipse is headed our way.

The annular eclipse, which has the moon passing directly in the way of our view of the sun on Sunday, is the first of its kind since 1994. But it won’t be a total eclipse because the moon is farther from Earth than usual; instead you’ll see a ring of fire around the moon.

The phenomenon happens twice a year, but is usually only visible by a small fraction of the Earth's surface. This eclipse will be visible in China and Japan on May 21 and for the first time in 18 years by continental western states, California, Nevada, and Arizona on May 20, but not on the East Coast, where the sun will have already set. Those in the Northeast will have to wait for the total eclipse in 2017.

For those who will get a glimpse of the annular eclipse this weekend, though, don’t forget mom’s advice. If you don’t have a solar filter, a pinhole projector, or some special solar-safe viewing glasses, you better refrain from staring—otherwise the next eclipse might be a lot harder to see.

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Video produced by Krishnan Vasuvedan.

Correction: This article originally stated the ring around the moon during the solar eclipse would be visible because the moon is closer to Earth than usual; the ring will be visible because the moon is farther away.

Ben Johnson is the producer of Marketplace Tech from American Public Media.

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