18 March 2012

Ring of Fire Roadtrip and the San Francisco Amateur Astronomers

In just two months, the western United States will witness a special astronomical event, a "Ring of Fire" solar eclipse, also called an Annular Solar Eclipse. This particular kind of eclipse is the result of an exact alignment of the Sun, Moon and Earth, but unlike a Total Solar Eclipse in which the sky turns to night and the Sun's corona becomes visible, an Annular Eclipse brings us a different spectacle in which the inner 90% of the Sun is blocked out by the Moon, leaving an eerie "Ring of Fire" in the sky.

The event takes place on Sunday May 20th and although San Francisco and many parts of the western US will see a very deep Partial Solar Eclipse, you will have to travel to Northern California to see the full 'Annular' effect in which the Moon is centered in the disk of the Sun. 

My local astronomy club, the San Francisco Amateur Astronomers, is sponsoring a "Ring of Fire Road Trip" for those who'd like to join the club and view the May 20th eclipse from the Mt. Shasta area, several hours north of San Francisco. If you'd like to learn more about this, check out the newly-redesigned SFAA website and make plans to see this special event. 

By the way, the SFAA conducts monthly lectures, star parties and special events like the Ring of Fire Roadtrip. Check out the website for the latest events, including a lecture this Wednesday March 21 by NASA Astronomer Jeffrey Van Cleve on the topic of Near Earth Objects. Most SFAA events are open to the public and we welcome you to join us for a talk, a road trip, or a night under the stars at one of our upcoming Star Parties in San Francisco or high atop the fog on Mt. Tam, about 45 minutes north of San Francisco.  

I hope to see you at an upcoming event. 

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons / Sancho Panza.

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