‘Ring of fire’ comes to sky Sunday afternoon
May 18, 2012
EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado – Sunday afternoon, the American West will have in prime view of a “ring of fire” eclipse.
Scientifically called an annular eclipse, the moon will pass in front of the sun at the farthest point during its orbit around Earth, which leaves only the circumference visible. For those with proper solar viewing glasses in Eagle County, the eclipse will be viewable at 5:34 p.m.; reach its height at 6:30 p.m.; and end at 7:31 p.m., after the sun has set in the western sky.
Even though most of the sun will be mostly covered, it will not be safe to view even with sunglasses. Even multiple pairs stacked on top of each other will not be enough protection because sunglasses are designed to block out scattered light but not direct light.
Equipment such as “eclipse shades,” specially designed glasses that resemble 3-D glasses, and No. 14 welding glass will protect one’s eyes from the Sun. “Eclipse shades” have been available in the Front Range for the last two months and on the Internet, but not in the Vail Valley.
With the proper eyewear, this Sunday’s event should be spectacular. The sun has been fairly active recently, said Scott McIntosh, a researcher at the High Altitude Observatory in Boulder who studies solar activity. It is approaching the height of its 11-year cycle, when activities such as sunspots and barb-like solar flares are at their most active.
“(The sun) has been more petulant and more feisty,” McIntosh said. “It could be pretty spectacular – who knows what the sun will do in the time it will be blocked out.”
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Because of how late in the late the eclipse occurs, the valley is not likely to experience the twilight darkness that occurs during a full solar eclipse, said Dale Versteegen, the community program coordinator at the Walking Mountains Science Center. He recommends viewing the event up high where one can see the horizon.
Eagle Valley High School science teachers have been supplementing their students’ curriculum with extra credit questions about Sunday’s event.
“It gives them something to look forward to on Sunday,” said teacher Megan Palmer. “They love the out-of-earth unit.”
Area residents have an unprecedented access to solar events in their lifetime. On June 5 and 6, Venus will transect the sun. The next eclipse like this viewable in the northern hemisphere will not be until Dec. 26, 2016. And a total eclipse will sweep the United States from Oregon to North Carolina on Aug. 21, 2017. Colorado residents will have to travel to Wyoming to view the total eclipse, which will be the closet one has come in three generations.