Texans astonished as 'Ring of Fire' solar eclipse makes its way over the Americas

ByAshley Strickland, CNNWire
Saturday, October 14, 2023
Texans able to see annular 'ring of fire' solar eclipse
Missed the scintillating event that won't happen again until 2046? Don't worry, you can check out the celestial spectacle safely in the video player above!

HOUSTON, Texas -- On Saturday, a celestial spectacle over North, Central, and South America, known as an annular solar eclipse, created a "ring of fire" in the sky.

Missed the event? View the spectacular show in the video player above.

Annular solar eclipses are like total solar eclipses, except the moon is at the farthest point in its orbit from Earth, so it can't completely block the sun. Instead, the sun's fiery light surrounds the moon's shadow, creating the so-called ring of fire.

According to NASA, an annular eclipse like this won't appear over this part of the world again until 2046.

"It is like nothing you've ever experienced before," Mitzi Adams, assistant chief of the Heliophysics and Planetary Science Branch at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, said in a statement. "It's sort of like somebody puts a bowl on top of Earth right above where you're standing. In the middle of the day, it gets darker, but you can still see light around the rim."

The annular solar eclipse began in the United States and passed from Oregon to the Gulf Coast in Texas, appearing in Nevada, Utah, and New Mexico along the way as well. The event was also visible in parts of California, Idaho, Colorado, and Arizona.

In Houston, the partial eclipse began at 10:27 a.m. and reached its maximum at 11:58 a.m.

After leaving the U.S., the eclipse crossed Mexico, Belize, Honduras, Panama, and Colombia before ending off South America's Atlantic coast at Natal, Brazil.

A crescent-shaped partial solar eclipse, where only part of the sun is covered by the moon, was visible in all 49 continental U.S. states, including Alaska, according to NASA.

What to see

Those in the path of the annular eclipse experienced several phases of the event. First, as the moon began to pass in front of the sun, it created a crescent-shaped partial eclipse, making it look like the moon was taking a bite out of our star.

An hour and 20 minutes after the partial eclipse began, the moon moved directly in front of the sun, creating a ring of fire (also called annularity). Depending on your location along the path, this phase lasted between one and five minutes.

During annularity, the sky grows darker, though not as dark as during a total solar eclipse, when all the sun's light is blocked. Animals may behave as they do at dusk, and the air may feel cooler, according to NASA.

The moon continued its trek across the sun for another hour and 20 minutes, creating another partial eclipse before the moon moved out of sight.

On Monday, April 8, 2024, a total solar eclipse will cross North America, passing over Mexico, the United States, and Canada.

ABC13 viewers sent photos of the eclipse that was captured through shadows of trees, that mimic a pinhole projector.

How to safely watch a solar eclipse

It's never safe to look directly at the sun without using specialized protection, and there is no phase of an annular or partial eclipse that is safe to view with the naked eye because the sun's light is never completely blocked.

To view the annular eclipse safely, wear certified ISO 12312-2 compliant solar eclipse glasses or use a handheld solar viewer. Separately, you can observe the sun with a telescope, binoculars, or camera that has a special solar filter on the front, which acts the same way eclipse glasses would.

Don't look at the sun through any optical device - camera lens, telescope, binoculars - while wearing eclipse glasses or using a handheld solar viewer, according to NASA. Solar rays can still burn through the filter on the glasses or viewer, given how concentrated they can be through an optical device, and can cause severe eye damage.

If you normally wear eyeglasses, keep them on and put eclipse glasses over them or hold a handheld viewer in front of them, according to the American Astronomical Society.

Put on your eclipse glasses before looking up, and remember to turn away from the sun before you remove them again.

Always keep an eye on any children wearing eclipse glasses to make sure they don't remove them while looking at the sun.

Sunglasses won't work in place of eclipse glasses or solar viewers, which are 100,000 times darker and held to an international standard. Don't use torn, scratched or damaged eclipse glasses or solar viewers.

For safe manufacturers and resellers of eclipse glasses and filters for optical devices, including cameras and smartphones, check out the list curated by the American Astronomical Society.

Texas is in the path of the annular solar eclipse in 2023, but viewers will need some sort of pinhole projector, or safety goggles to see the event.

Indirectly watch the eclipse

Eclipses can also be viewed indirectly using a pinhole projector, such as a hole punched through an index card. The proper way to use these is by standing with your back to the sun and holding up the card. The pinhole projects an image of the sun on the ground or other surfaces. But never face the sun while viewing it this way and don't look directly at it through the pinhole.

Other pinhole projectors you may already have on hand include colanders, straw hats or anything with small holes in it. The small holes will reflect the sun's crescent during a partial eclipse or a ring during the annular eclipse.

Photographing the eclipse

Want to capture your eclipse memories through photos? After ensuring your camera has a protective solar filter, don't forget to grab a tripod to prevent your image of the ring of fire from being blurry as the skies darken.

Manually focusing your camera and changing your exposure can help with the darkness as it descends during the event, according to NASA. The American Astronomical Society also has tips for anyone wishing to capture images or video of the annular eclipse.

While all eyes will be on the eclipse happening above, take in your surroundings as well, noting the unusually dark landscape and shadows created by the eclipse. Standing by a leafy tree? The small spaces between leaves will dapple patterns of the eclipse phase on the ground, which makes for a great shot.

"The real pictures are going to be of the people around you pointing, gawking, and watching it," NASA photographer Bill Ingalls said in a statement. "Those are going to be some great moments to capture to show the emotion of the whole thing."


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