The first solar eclipse of the century that’s visible from the United States is coming to Curry and Del Norte counties.
On the evening of Sunday, May 20, peaking around 6:24 p.m. the moon will pass in front of the sun, the first time a solar eclipse has been seen from the U.S. mainland in 18 years.
The “ring of fire” will be produced by an annular solar eclipse, not quite as impressive as a total eclipse, but actually more rare.
An annular eclipse occurs when the moon passes directly in front of the sun while the moon is at its apogee, the point in its orbit when it’s farthest from Earth, making it appear smaller.
At this visual size, the moon doesn’t completely block out the sun – only 94 percent. This leaves “the ring of fire” known as an annulus.
It appears that Curry County residents will be on their own when it comes to viewing the event. The Pilot checked with local schools, colleges and state parks and did not learn of any public viewing events.
The Pilot also called more than 10 Brookings stores and was unsuccessful in finding for purchase the special heavy-duty glasses that are required to view the eclipse to avoid eye damage.
However, a few public events are schedule in Del Norte County. From 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Redwood National and State Parks will hold solar viewing parties at Point St. George in Crescent City and the Thomas H. Kuchel Visitor center in Orick.
During the peak period, from about 6:24 to 6:29 p.m. it will suddenly get darker, like twilight conditions, but not like the completely blacked out effect of a total eclipse.
“It’s still going to be pretty dark,” said Jon Pedicino, professor of astronomy at College of the Redwoods in Eureka. “No one is going to not know what’s going on.”
It is not safe to look at this eclipse with the naked eye. That remaining 6 percent of the sun is enough to cause significant eyesight damage.
Redwood National and State Parks is selling solar glasses for $1.99 at the Crescent City Visitor Center, the Walgreens in Crescent City, Prairie Creek and Patrick’s Point visitor centers and during the “solar viewing events.” As of Tuesday, Walgreens in Crescent City still had glasses but they were selling fast. The number for Walgreens is 707-464-3857.
Solar glass can also be ordered at online shopping sites such as www.amazon.com.
“The National Park Service is taking the lead throughout the West in celebrating the upcoming annular solar eclipse for two very good reasons: to support public safety through information about safe viewing and because the natural landscapes of America’s national parks make for some of the best sky viewing in the nation,” said Candice Tinkler, chief of interpretation and education for Redwood Parks.
The shadow of the eclipse will race across the western United States at 1,000 mph, starting with a stretch from Bandon, Ore. to just north of Shelter Cove, California.
All of Del Norte County, most of Curry County falls into the path of the shadow where one can see the annular solar eclipse.
The western two-thirds of the U.S. will see a partial eclipse. Klamath, Calif., falls directly on the center line of the band of visibility, but astronomer Pedicino isn’t rushing to Klamath to see it.
He said there’s “not much” of a difference in what you might see as long as you’re within that band. He said he planned to watch the eclipse from his backyard in Fortuna with a simple pinhole-projector.
If you don’t get solar glasses, Pedicino recommended punching a hole in a piece of cardboard or paper with a pencil. Hold up the paper with your back toward the sun and shine the light onto a flat surface like concrete. Look at the light that shines through the hole onto the ground. You will slowly see the moon pass across the circle of the light, completely covering all but a ring of light at the peak.
Without the proper filters, cameras could also be damaged by trying to photograph the eclipse.
From Curry County, the partial eclipse will begin at 5:08 p.m., becoming an annular eclipse around 6:24 p.m.
As the eclipse builds to its peak, the moon will slowly move across the sun, reaching the center and creating the “ring of fire” around 6:24 p.m.
Of course, fog or cloudy skies could dampen the whole experience. As of Tuesday, the long-range forecast for eclipse day called for partly cloudy skies.