Sunday, January 29, 2012

You won't have to fly your Lear Jet to Nova Scotia to see a total eclipse of the sun

I suppose I could try to give this a business spin -- "Utah, Nevada, expect tourism $ from May eclipse" -- but on Sunday afternoon I'd rather just write about something that fascinates me.

If you're thinking about a road trip to Las Vegas, Mesquite, St. George or even Reno, mid-May might be a good time. On May 20, Nevada and southern Utah are going to experience an annular solar eclipse. They don’t happen very often, and when they do they’re usually over the ocean or someplace far from home.

You undoubtedly know that a solar eclipse occurs when the moon comes between the Sun and the Earth and casts a shadow. An annular eclipse is when the moon is farther away from the Earth and therefore smaller in the sky and a ring of light from the sun shines on the outside.

Thanks to Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler, eclipses are easy to predict, so astronomers have known for years this has been coming. Nevada and Utah are on the tail end, which means the sun will be low in the sky when the moon creeps in front of it. Given the locale -- Zion National Park, anyone? -- there could be some epic sunset pictures. If you've got people in Reno or northern California, the eclipse will be in view as well. Near Reno, the eclipse will be in its full glory along southern shore of Pyramid Lake.

After this one, the next time a solar eclipse occurs in North America will be Aug. 21, 2017. And guess what? The path will run right over central and eastern Idaho. Looking at the map, I've come to the conclusion that either Redfish Lake or Menan Butte will be the best places to see it. Mark your calendars. You read it first here.
With an annular eclipse, there's a burning ring of fire around the Moon.