A Ring of Fire Eclipse in the Southern Hemisphere

On Feb. 26, a “ring of fire” will be visible in the sky above parts of the Southern Hemisphere, including Chile, Argentina and Angola. This is called an annular eclipse.

Credit: Dale Cruikshank

If you live within the viewing area, even though most of the sun will be obscured by the moon, it’s essential to observe eye safety. This includes using a proper solar filter or an indirect viewing method during ALL phases of this eclipse.

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What is an annular eclipse? During any type of solar eclipse, the sun, moon, and Earth line up, allowing the moon to cast its shadow on Earth’s surface in a partial or total solar eclipse.

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An annular eclipse is the product of almost the same celestial geometry as a total solar eclipse – that is, from the perspective of some place on Earth, the moon crosses in front of the sun’s center. 

But an annular eclipse is different in one important way – the moon is too far from Earth to obscure the sun completely, leaving the sun’s edges exposed and producing the “ring of fire” effect for which annular eclipses are known. Because the moon’s orbit is slightly oblong, its distance from Earth – and therefore its apparent size compared to the sun’s – is constantly changing.

An annular eclipse seen in extreme ultraviolet light – a type of light invisible to humans – by the Hinode spacecraft on Jan. 4, 2011.

Any time part, or all, of the sun’s surface is exposed – whether during an annular eclipse, a partial eclipse, or just a regular day – it’s essential to use a proper solar filter or an indirect viewing method to view the sun. You can NEVER look directly at the sun, and an annular eclipse is no exception!  

If you live in the Southern Hemisphere or near the equator, check this interactive map for partial eclipse times.

If you live in North America, you’ll have a chance to see an eclipse later this year. On Aug. 21, 2017, a total solar eclipse will cross the US – the first total solar eclipse in the contiguous US in nearly 40 years! The path of totality for the August eclipse runs from coast to coast.

Within this narrow path of totality, the moon will completely obscure the sun – unlike an annular eclipse – revealing the sun’s outer atmosphere. People in other parts of North America will see a partial solar eclipse, weather permitting. Find out what you can see during the Aug. 21, 2017, eclipse in your area with our maps, and explore the rest of eclipse2017.nasa.gov for more information.

For more eclipse science, visit www.nasa.gov/eclipse.

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