6 DAYS TO ANNULAR ECLIPSE 2023 by Alex Martin, Executive Director
When you think about a solar eclipse, you think of the Sun disappearing behind the Moon, the sky going dark, and strange shapes hanging in the sky for several minutes. That's what we experienced on August 21, 2017, what we call a Total Solar Eclipse. However, the solar eclipse occurring in just 12 days is called an Annular Solar Eclipse. So, what's the difference? It's all about the orbit of the Moon! You may have heard that the Moon and the Sun are the same size in the sky (and if you haven't, surprise! You're one of the Lucky 10,000). In general, we can say they are roughly the same size when viewed from the surface of the Earth, but not exactly the same size. The human eye alone cannot perceive the small percentage difference between them. This is where using tools, such as cameras, help us make better measurements than our senses alone. The Moon's orbit is not circular. Nor does it orbit around the equator - there is about a 5 degree tilt (that is, the Moon's highest inclination takes it 5 degrees above or below the equator). But the fact that the orbit is not circular is what creates an Annular Eclipse vs a Solar Eclipse. Every month, the Moon moves closer and farther from the Earth in its orbit. The farthest point is called apogee, and the closest point is called perigee. You've probably heard of Supermoons and Micromoons during a Full Moon, when the Moon appears larger than usual or smaller than usual (again, the change in size is undetectable by the human eye). On the flipside, apogee and perigee are also responsible for Annular and Total Eclipses! When an eclipse occurs near the Moon's apogee, it is farther away, and thus appears smaller in the sky. At this point, it is also smaller than the Sun appears, and thus doesn't cover up the entire Sun, leaving a circle of orange light. This circle gives the name Annular (from the Latin annulus) means "Ring Shaped." Then, when an eclipse occurs near the Moon's perigee, it is closer to Earth than average, and thus appears larger in the sky. At this point, it is also larger than the Sun appears, and so covers up the entire Sun, creating the stereotypical solar eclipse: a black hole in the sky. So the October 14, 2023 eclipse will be Ring Shaped. It will NOT be safe to look at without solar glasses, else risking permanent eye damage or blindness. This will not detract from the experience. Shadows will change. Light will briefly dim. We will all gaze up in wonder at the geometric marvel playing out in the cosmos above. If you're in Florida, these are the details you need to know in order to see the eclipse: Date: Saturday, October 14, 2023 Time: 11:50am to 3:02pm EDT Maximum Eclipse: 1:25pm EDT Amount of Moon Coverage: 62% of entire Sun Make sure you stay up to date with us as we begin to release educational materials here in the next two weeks leading up to our travel day! If you'd like to make a contribution to our trip, you can visit this link.