This Sunday, if you happen to be in the Southwesten United States, you can expect front-row seats to a rare annular solar eclipse. The eclipse will create the appearance of a ring of sunlight in the sky, as the new moon passes between Earth and the sun blocking most of the sun's disc. PolicyMic will be providing live updates, and pictures, of the eclipse throughout Sunday afternoon (below).
There will be a number of niche sites broadcasting the event, and there may be a lag in their live feed due to increased traffic volume. To be safe, bookmark this page than come back before the eclipse starts. The eclipse will begin just after 6:00 pm EDT.
We will also be covering LIVE the Transit of Venus event (more notes below)!
What is This Whole Solar Eclipse Thing? During the eclipse expect for the sky to darken for a few moments and a blindingly bright -- dangerous to look at -- ring of sunlight will be visible. The eclipse will occur on Sunday afternoon beginning on the California-Oregon coast and continuing southeast across Nevada, the Grand Canyon, New Mexico, and eventually Texas.
If preparing to watch the eclipse, be sure to not look directly at it. In order to protect your eyes, be sure to observe the moment through a heavily-filtered image that is then projected onto a screen. Or, a more cost-friendly option, the old pinhole in a piece of paper or leaf trick works just fine. The pinhole will act as a lens and will project the image of the sun onto the ground beneath your feet. Be sure to look down, and not up.
Best viewing times:
LIVE UPDATES: Monday 6 p.m. For All You Space Buffs: A great look at SpaceX, the recent launch failure, and the future of the American space industry.
Monday 2:45 p.m. When is the Next Big Solar Eclipse For the U.S.?
You'll have to wait awhile. The continental United States won't see another good show for five years. California won't see as stunning as a show for another 59 years.
But here is a sampling from the Los Angeles Times of what's next in store for the solar eclipse front in the United States.
2014: A partial solar eclipse is in store for the western United States on Oct. 23, 2014. Western Canada, Alaska and the northern edge of the U.S. border between Washington state to Wisconsin should have the best view, with more than 60% of the sun's diameter (its center line) blocked by the moon's shadow. California and the U.S. Southwest should see more than 40% of the sun's diameter covered.
2017: This is the one to travel for. A "total" solar eclipse -- an even better one than Sunday's "ring" eclipse -- will completely cover the sun's light, blotting out even the sun's outer fringes. Total eclipses are far more exciting because they will shroud the land in an eerie midday twilight. The Aug. 21, 2017, total eclipse will glide through Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, northeastern Kansas, Missouri, southern Illinois, western Kentucky, Tennessee, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and South Carolina.
Los Angeles will see more than 60% of the sun's diameter covered up by the moon.
2023: This is Los Angeles' next major partial solar eclipse, according to calculations by NASA eclipse expert Fred Espenak. It will happen on Oct. 14, 2023, and will cover up 78% of the sun's diameter.
2071: In Los Angeles, Sept. 23, 2071 will bring a solar eclipse that exceeds Sunday's show, with 91% of the sun's diameter covered up.
2121: Alas, this won't happen in our lifetimes, but on July 14, 2121, Los Angeles will see a full "ring-of-fire" eclipse of its own.
Monday 12:16 p.m. The Solar Eclipse From Japan: How did Japan respond to the solar eclipse? The eclipse was broadcast live on TV in Tokyo, where such an eclipse hasn’t been visible since 1839. Japanese TV crews watched from the top of Mount Fuji and even staked out a zoo south of Tokyo to capture the reaction of the chimpanzees — who didn’t seem to notice.
Eclipse tours were arranged in Japan at schools and parks, on pleasure boats and even private airplanes. Similar events were held in China and Taiwan as well, with skywatchers warned to protect their eyes.
A light rain fell on Tokyo as the eclipse began, but the clouds thinned as it reached its peak, providing near perfect conditions.
Monday 11:30 a.m. Time-Lapse Video of the Sun's Behavior -- Super Cool!
Monday 11:00 a.m. The Transit of Venus is Up Next! This should cure any solar hangovers you may have: Another rare astronomical treat will happen in just a few weeks: Venus will block the sun in June. And it's a good opportunity to watch — the next chance on Earth won't come for 105 years.
It's the same idea as a solar eclipse — Venus moves in a way that blocks light from the sun to Earth. But because Venus is so much farther away than the moon, observers will see only a tiny black dot move across the surface of the sun.
Monday 10:20 a.m. Solar Recap: Some Notes:
The annular solar eclipse was seen from late afternoon Sunday to early evening in the United States. The event happened as the moon passed between Earth and the sun, leaving a ring of fire in the sky. The eclipse was first visible in East Asia before putting on a show for skywatchers in the western and central United States.
Video of the solar eclipse:
Sunday 7:10 p.m. Solar Eclipses Through History: Observations of solar eclipses date back to at least 2500 BC, with ancient civilizations using the events to establish calendars and organize the planting and harvesting of crops. And though most early calendars were lunar calendars, ancient civilizations kept track of how the lunar and solar calendars merged together in events similar to the one we are about to experience today.
Sunday 6:30 p.m. Weather Update: The weather forecast looks good for Los Angeles, most of California, and the rest of the U.S. Southwest for Sunday's solar eclipse. But clouds threaten the view in much of Asia and the U.S. Northwest, South and Midwest.
Sunday 5:50 p.m. How Everyone Can Watch the Ring of Fire (Online) The eclipse will occur in the afternoon and early evening on Sunday (May 20). At its peak, the moon will block roughly 94 percent of the sun's light. The so-called annular solar eclipse will not completely cover the sun, but will produce a spectacular "ring of fire" in the sky for well-placed observers. ("Annulus" is the Latin word for "little ring.")
Eclipse live feeds (all times are EDT):
Sunday 4:50 p.m. SOLAR ECLIPSE: Live streaming of the annular solar eclipse from Mt. Fuji, Japan, starts in about an hour and a half. Watch: HERE.
Sunday 4:00 p.m. SOLAR ECLIPSE EAST COAST UPDATE: Unfortunately for folks on the East Coast, the sun will have already set by the time the eclipse begins at 5:24 p.m. PDT. Those living in the central U.S. and Canada may miss the full ring-of-fire effect but will still get a partial eclipse. Viewers in Asia will also catch a glimpse in the early-morning hours of May 2, reported Time.
Sunday 3:52 p.m. SOLAR ECLIPSE: NEVADA PICNIC PARY: The Fleishmann Planetarium, located on the University of Nevada campus in Reno, is hosting a free viewing party from 5 to 7 p.m. at its MacLean Observatory. Visitors can bring a picnic dinner or purchase food at nearby restaurants, reported KUTV 2 News.
Additionally, The Nevada Historical Society will be hosting a free viewing party at the University of Nevada Redfield Campus on the south end of Reno. Visitors are invited to gather from 4 to 7 p.m. to see the eclipse crossing the southern tip of Pyramid Lake, where the absence of light pollution will provide "an unforgettable view of the eclipse."
Sunday 3:02 p.m. SOLAR ECLIPSE: WAITING FOR THE BIG "DONUT": The sun and moon will align over the earth in a rare astronomical event late on Sunday (an annular eclipse that will dim the skies over parts of Asia and North America) briefly turning the sun into a blazing ring of fire.
"It will look like a donut with a very big hole in it," NASA space scientist Jeffrey Newmark said.
An annular eclipse occurs when the moon's orbit is at its furthest point from the Earth and closer to the much larger sun. That juxtaposition allows the moon to block more than 90% of the sun's rays when the two orbs slide into alignment in space, Newmark explains.
Sunday 2:41 p.m. SOLAR ECLIPSE DANGERS: Children and young adults are most likely of all age groups to suffer from blindness when they look at the sun during a solar eclipse, according to NASA via the Los Angeles Times.
"Eclipse blindness" can occur when people look at solar eclipses repeatedly or for a long time without proper protection. It can be temporary or permanent, and it is particularly dangerous because the damage to the eyes happens without any pain, according to B. Ralph Chou, an optometry professor who wrote a report for NASA.
"The danger to vision is significant," Chou wrote. "This can have important adverse effects on career choices and earning potential, since it has been shown that most individuals who sustain eclipse-related eye injuries are children and young adults."
The intense light from the sun, Chou wrote, triggers chemical reactions in the eyes that can damage or destroy the eye cells needed for sight, and can cause temporary or permanent blindness.
Sunday 2:00 p.m. SOLAR ECLIPSE FEVER: Special solar eclipse glasses have sold out at the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, Calif. The city-run observatory is one of the few local places known to sell eclipse glasses, but its stock of 2,500 pairs ran out late Friday night, spokeswoman Susa Szotyori said. She added that the observatory's gift shop had fully expected to have plenty of glasses, which sold for $2.99 each, available through the Sunday eclipse.
Sunday 1:22 p.m. SOLAR ECLIPSE WEATHER UPDATE: The weather forecast looks good for Los Angeles, most of California, and the rest of the U.S. Southwest for Sunday's solar eclipse. But clouds threaten the view in much of Asia and the U.S. Northwest, South and Midwest.
Sunday 12:41 p.m. SOLAR ECLIPSE: When the moon blocks the sun in a rare "ring of fire" solar eclipse this Sunday, six astronauts living in space might see the shadow on Earth created by the event from their home in space. The International Space Station crew will likely not see the peak of the solar eclipse, but the astronauts may see the shadow from a partial solar eclipse as it moves across the Pacific Ocean.
Sunday 11:49 a.m. NASA is using an interactive Google Map to let you see the path of Sunday's annual solar eclipse, which will be viewable for millions of people. Unfortunately, if you're located in the eastern half of the U.S., you'll miss the solar eclipse because of sunset, but anyone west of Wisconsin down to Texas all the way over to southeast Asia can click on the map from NASA and Google to find out exactly when the moon will pass in front of the sun, covering as much as 94 percent of it.
Sunday 11:27 a.m. There aren't official numbers as to how many people plan to make an event of the ring-of-fire spectacle, the likes of which hasn't been seen in the continental U.S. for nearly two decades.
One clue to demand might be found at the planetarium at the University of Nevada, Reno, which had to order another 10,000 solar viewing glasses after it sold out of them -- 17,000 pairs at $2 each -- last week.
Sunday 10:59 a.m. If you're not lucky enough to live in the path of the May 20 "ring of fire" solar eclipse, you can still watch the spectacular event online.
Several different organizations will broadcast live footage of the solar eclipse Sunday, as seen through telescopes in various locations around the world. Viewers can track the eclipse as it moves from East Asia, crosses the Pacific and darkens the skies over much of western Northern America. SPACE.com will offer several of the solar eclipse webcasts for readers.
• The Slooh Space Camera, for example, will stream live feeds from telescopes in Japan, California, Arizona, and New Mexico, starting at 5:30 p.m. EDT (2130 GMT). Viewers will be able to snap their own pictures of the eclipse via the website, Slooh officials said. To watch, go to Slooh's homepage on Sunday.
• The electronics company Panasonic will broadcast live eclipse footage from the top of Japan's iconic Mt. Fuji, Sky and Telescope Magazine reports. The broadcast crew will scale the 12,390-foot (3,776-meter) peak with the aid of climbing guides.
• Further, the Hong Kong Observatory and Hong Kong Space Museum are providing a joint feed, letting the world see the eclipse from the vantage point of the huge city in southern China.
• Finally, Sky and Telescope reports, amateur astronomer Scotty Degenhart will broadcast from Nevada's Area 51, a patch of desert about 80 miles (130 kilometers) northwest of Las Vegas.
Sunday 10:45 a.m. SOLAR ECLIPSE FEVER! From the Los Angeles Times:
Special solar eclipse glasses have sold out at the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles.
The city-run observatory is one of the few local places known to sell eclipse glasses, but its stock of 2,500 pairs ran out late Friday night, spokeswoman Susa Szotyori said.
"The glasses are completely gone," Szotyori said. She said the observatory's gift shop had fully expected to have plenty of glasses, which sold for $2.99 each, available through the Sunday eclipse. "They're equally stunned as everyone," she said.
One group in Japan is broadcasting live its ascent of Mt. Fuji to photograph the once-in-a-generation event.
Mt. Fuji, the highest point in Japan, is directly under the full path of the annular eclipse -- one in which the moon blots out all but the sun's outer edge, blocking all sunlight except for a "ring of fire." ("Annular" means "ring" in Latin.)
Sunday 10:34 a.m. Scientists caution would-be viewers to be very careful because the sun’s damaging rays will remain powerful even during the annular solar eclipse. The advice: Either wear specially designed protective eyewear or attend a viewing event — at a planetarium or amateur astronomy club, for example — to avoid risk of serious eye injury. For 3 ½ hours, the eclipse follows an 8,500-mile path with the ring-of-fire phenomenon lasting as long as 5 minutes, depending on location. Outside this narrow band, other parts of the U.S. and portions of Canada and Mexico will be treated to a partial eclipse. The Eastern Seaboard will be shut out, but people can find online sites that plan to broadcast the event live.
Sunday 8:41 a.m. Thousands of people are planning viewing parties for the upcoming annular solar eclipse, a rare event in which the sun will appear as a thin ring behind the moon. The eclipse will begin over Asia on Monday morning, when it will be visible in southern Japan and southern China. In the United States, the eclipse will be visible on a path from northwestern Texas through New Mexico, northeastern Arizona, southern Utah, Nevada, northern California and southwestern Oregon late Sunday. During an annular eclipse, the moon does not block the entirety of the sun, but leaves a bright ring of visible light at the edges, according to NASA. The last annular eclipse appeared in the United States in 1994. The next solar eclipse will be on November 13, and is expected to be visible over northern Australia, according to NASA.
Saturday 6:04 p.m. Utah Readies for Eclipse: Starting at about 6:20 p.m. Sunday, the moon will move in front of the sun, causing an annular solar eclipse, often called a ring of fire eclipse, in southwest Utah. Along the Wasatch Front, viewers can see a deep partial eclipse, which will cause the sun to look like a crescent. The sun will be in full “annularity,” when the moon best covers the sun, for four minutes at 7:31 p.m. as viewed from a vantage with a low horizon between Cedar City and St. George.
Saturday 4:06 pm: The next best chance for such an impressive solar eclipse in Los Angeles will be in 2071. The partial solar eclipse targeting L.A., beginning Sunday at 5:24 p.m. and reaching its maximum shadow at 6:38 p.m., will cover up about 85% of the sun's diameter, leaving behind a very skinny C-shaped sun. That's because Sunday's eclipse is the closest Los Angeles will be to a full eclipse for the next 59 years, according to calculations by NASA eclipse expert Fred Espenak.
Saturday 1:23 pm: Photographing a solar eclipse isn't as easy as shooting a lunar eclipse. However, you can use certain techniques to create memorable photos of Sunday's rare event. First thing to know, your camera lens is not protection enough. For that reason, you need to take special precautions to protect both your camera and your eyes. Never, ever look directly at the sun without looking through a filter. The easiest and cheapest filter you can get that will allow you (and your camera) to safely view the eclipse is a simple pair of eclipse glasses. If you have a point-and-shoot camera, get two pairs — one for you and one for the camera. Then you can attach one lens of the camera's pair to the camera's lens, and you'll be good to go.
Saturday 7:52 am: The next solar eclipse will fall on the South Pacific on Nov. 13, 2012. However, sky-watchers have another treat between now and then as the transit of Venus (the passage of the planet across the disk of the sun as seen from Earth) will take place on June 5-6.