February 28, 2024

Key events

While millions will be looking to the heavens in the hope of witnessing a spectacular show, others will be deliberately averting their eyes from the famed ring of fire.

In Navajo culture, and for other Indigenous people, the eclipse is considered an intimate, celestial moment, and tribe members will not eat, drink, sleep or engage in physical activity while the moon passes the sun.

Dead Horse Point state park in Utah, close to the zone of annularity.
Dead Horse Point state park in Utah, close to the zone of annularity. Photograph: Nick Jackson/REX Shutterstock

Native groups elsewhere are using the occasion to pass down cultural teachings, share stories and ensure that members, especially younger generations, learn sacred traditions.

Read more about solar eclipse customs among Indigenous people here:

First image of moon crossing the sun

The annular solar eclipse has already begun in some parts of the US. This image from AFP photographer Patrick Fallon shows the moon beginning to cross in front of the sun, seen from Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The moon starts crossing in front of the sun over Albuquerque, New Mexico, on Saturday.
The moon starts crossing in front of the sun over Albuquerque, New Mexico, on Saturday. Photograph: Patrick T Fallon/AFP/Getty Images

How can I watch it?

Then president Donald Trump gave the perfect example of how NOT to do it during the 2017 total solar eclipse, looking directly at the sun from the White House with no eye protection whatsoever.

Donald Trump watches the 2017 eclipse.
Donald Trump watches the 2017 eclipse. Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Nasa is urging a safety-first approach, and hired former NSYNC singer and noted space enthusiast Lance Bass for this video explaining how to watch the skies safely when celestial bodies are in sync (see what the clever space agency did there?).

Essentially, if you don’t have a pair of special eclipse glasses, a solar viewer or solar filter for your telescope, you’ll need to find another way. Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Center has this video showing how to make a box pinhole projector, but you’ll need to get your skates on.

Out of time? Grab a kitchen colander and hold it about 20in from the ground over white paper or card. As long as it’s not cloudy, you should see multiple images of the eclipse.

Where can I watch it?

For the best view, you need to be in the direct path of the eclipse. After an earlier pass over Alaska, the fun begins over Oregon at 9.13am PT, and moves south-east over parts of California, Nevada, Idaho, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico, before crossing a wide expanse of Texas and into the Gulf of Mexico.

From there, it moves over the Yucatan peninsula, Belize and several other Central and South American countries, exiting into the Atlantic over Brazil’s east coast. The show ends at sunset over the Atlantic Ocean.

The eclipse’s path of annularity.
The eclipse’s path of annularity. Photograph: AP

But at least a partial eclipse, minus the ring of fire, will be visible in all 41 of the other continental states including Alaska. The farther you are from the direct path, a lower percentage of the sun will be covered.

If you’re not in an area where the eclipse is viewable, or it’s a cloudy day where you are, there are various livestreams covering the event, featuring telescopes from the pathway. Nasa’s is here, and San Francisco’s Exploratorium museum is hosting their own version here.

You can find out what you can expect to see in your location, and when, at timeanddate.com’s easy checker here.

People watch the sun rise over Bryce Canyon national park, Utah, on Saturday as they await a rare ‘ring of fire’ eclipse of the sun.
People watch the sun rise over Bryce Canyon national park, Utah, on Saturday as they await a rare ‘ring of fire’ eclipse of the sun. Photograph: Rick Bowmer/AP

So what, exactly, is an annular eclipse?

There are, as Nasa explains here, several different types of solar eclipses, from partial to total. An annular eclipse is one in which the moon passes between the sun and Earth, but when it is at or near its farthest point from Earth.

Because the moon is farther away from Earth, it appears smaller than the sun, and does not completely cover it. As a result, the moon appears as a dark disk on top of a larger, bright disk, creating what looks like a ring around the moon.

An annular eclipse seen from Albuquerque, New Mexico, on 20 May 2012.
An annular eclipse seen from Albuquerque, New Mexico, on 20 May 2012. Photograph: Lucas Jackson/REUTERS

The most recent such event visible in North America was in 2012. The next won’t be until 2039 in Alaska, and 2046 in the lower 48 states.

There’s a more detailed account of annular eclipses, and why they’re so rare, on timeanddate.com’s website here.

Good morning, sky watchers, sun enthusiasts, and those just curious. Welcome to our blog covering Saturday’s annular solar eclipse that will traverse a good chunk of the US and Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, and give the sun the spectacular appearance of a ring of fire.

The action begins, over the mainland US at least, in less than two hours from now, at 9.18am PT (12.18pm ET) in Oregon, although it’ll begin getting darker a little more than an hour before then. From Oregon to Texas, the entire event from daylight to darkness to daylight again will take about three hours, although the peak in any given location lasts only around five minutes.

We’ll preview the occasion, and bring you events as they happen.

While we get ready, take a look at this explainer from my colleague Erum Salam:

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