Annular Solar Eclipse of May 20, 2012

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Don’t look directly at it (not to sound like your elementary school teacher), but plan on checking out a “ring of fire” partial eclipse on Sunday, May 20, if you live on the West Coast of North America.

In this weekend’s annular solar eclipse, the moon will slide in front of the sun and block 94 percent of its light. But because the moon is near  apogee — the point in its orbit when it’s farthest away from Earth — it appears smaller to us, and will only cover most of the sun — leaving a ring of fiery light blasting the edges.

Because an annular solar eclipse requires the earth, moon and sun to be in a particular alignment, the event is particularly rare; this is the first such eclipse since 1994.

Remember, though, that looking directly at the sun—no matter how eclipsed—is dangerous for the eyes. Use solar filters, wear a pair of solar-safe viewing glasses or build a pinhole projector instead. You’ll want to be able to see the next annular eclipse when it comes in May 2013.

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