BROWNSVILLE With meteor showers, the recent and now an annular solar eclipse this weekend, the first few months of 2012 have offered a variety of astronomical wonders.
Set to occur about 7:39 p.m. Sunday, the eclipse should be observable from the Rio Grande Valley if weather permits. The moon will pass in front of the sun, and the sun periphery will be visible behind the lunar orb, creating the illusion of a ring of fire for anyone in the path of the moon shadow.
This type of eclipse was last visible from the continental United States in 1994.
The view of a solar eclipse depends on the person location. The ring of fire will be visible from a ribbon-like zone of shadow that will start in Southeast Asia, stretch across the Pacific Ocean and terminate in Northwest Texas. Outside that band of shadow, the sun will appear as a fiery crescent as the moon slides past it along a somewhat off-center path.
That means people in South Texas will not experience the full effect of the eclipse, said Barry Goldsmith, the warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Brownsville.
people don mind driving seven or eight hours to see the eclipse, they should head over to Lubbock or Albuquerque. It will be awesome up there, no question, Goldsmith said. won be the greatest show here because the timing (of the sunset) is not right for us.
Sunset will occur in the Valley before the moon completes its path across the sun.
Even so, people here are still planning to observe what they can of the phenomenon. Donald Hoak, 69, of Brownsville, has been fascinated with astronomy for more than 55 years and is planning a public viewing of the partial eclipse at the Brownsville Public Library, 2600 Central Blvd.
Hoak plans to have three professional-quality telescopes available at the event for public use. He advises anyone viewing the eclipse at home to have proper eye protection to prevent permanent injury.
should never ever look at the sun directly, Hoak said. can make a solar observing camera, or a pinhole camera, out of a shoebox, to be able to see the eclipse at home.
He recommends the public arrive at the library at 7 p.m. to observe sunspots before the eclipse takes place. After the sun sets, the public also will have a chance to view the planet Venus, which Hoak said will be beautiful that night.
You may want to enhance your eclipse-viewing experience by taking advantage of resources available via smartphones and other mobile devices.
An iOS app called Solar Eclipse, for example, provides geographic coordinates where the event can best be observed, as well as mapping and other visualizations. The app is available as a free download from Apple App Store.
People on the U.S. mainland will not experience another annular solar eclipse until October 2023.