In 2019, skywatchers in a few select locations on Earth have had two opportunities to see a solar eclipse, a celestial event in which the moon briefly appears to take a bite out of the sun. The third and final solar eclipse of 2019 will occur over Asia, Africa and Australia on Dec. 26, 2019. It will be an annular, “ring of fire” solar eclipse.
Here’s how to watch the solar eclipse on Space.com, beginning at 10 p.m. EST (0300 Dec. 26 GMT).
A solar eclipse occurs when the disk of the moon appears to cross in front of the disk of the sun. A total solar eclipse — like the one that crossed the U.S. on Aug. 21, 2017 — occurs when the disk of the moon blocks 100% of the solar disk. A partial eclipse occurs when the moon covers only part of the sun. If the moon passes directly in front of the sun when it is near apogee, the point in its elliptical orbit where it is farthest from Earth, skywatchers will see an annular eclipse, also known as a “ring of fire.”
The last total solar eclipse occurred on July 2, and it was visible almost exclusively over South America. December’s eclipse will be a “ring of fire” occur over Saudi Arabia, India and southeast Asia, and it will appear as a partial eclipse over Asia and Australia. You can see a complete list of the upcoming solar eclipses on NASA’s eclipse website, which provides information about solar eclipses, including detailed maps of each eclipse path.
The “ring of fire” eclipse on Dec. 26 will be visible from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, India, Sumatra, Borneo, Guam and the Philippines. Skywatchers in other parts of Asia, Australia and Africa will be able to see a partial eclipse.
During this eclipse, the moon will cross directly in front of the sun for viewers along the centerline of its path. However, because the eclipse occurs just a few days after the moon reaches apogee — its farthest distance from Earth — its apparent size in the sky will be smaller than the sun. This means that it won’t block the sun entirely, but it will instead turn the sun into a blazing “ring of fire” from Earth’s perspective.
The annular solar eclipse of Sept. 1, 2016, as seen from Reunion Island, east of Madagascar. (Image credit: Slooh and Weathernews Japan)
The first location to see the annular eclipse is 137 miles (220 kilometers) northeast of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, according to eclipse expert Fred Espenak’s website EclipseWise.com. It will begin there at 6:34 a.m. local time (0334 GMT), and the “ring of fire” phase will last 2 minutes and 59 seconds.
Guam will be the last place on Earth to see the eclipse; the island will see the annular phase last for more than 3 minutes, but the sun will set before the partial phase of the eclipse has ended. Below is a time table showing when the eclipse will be visible from different regions:
(Image credit: Fred Espenak/NASA)
If you are outside the path of visibility for this eclipse, you can watch a live webcast online, courtesy of the Slooh community observatory. Slooh will begin broadcasting live views of the eclipse on Dec. 25 at 9:30 p.m. EST (0230 GMT on Dec. 26). You can watch it on YouTube or directly via Slooh.com.
How to view the sun safely
WARNING: Looking directly at the sun, even during an annular eclipse, can lead to blindness and other forms of permanent eye damage if you aren’t wearing proper eye protection.
To safely observe the sun or watch an eclipse, you need special protective eyewear or eclipse glasses. Basic sunglasses, even those with UV protection, will not sufficiently protect your eyes. If you’re planning to document the eclipse with any photo equipment, there are special solar filters you can add to make sure the remaining ring of sunlight doesn’t take a toll on your vision.
The safest way to observe an eclipse is indirectly, using a pinhole camera that you can make easily at home.
If you must document one of these events, a simple, wide-angle snap should capture the moment, even if you’re using your smartphone camera.
Editor’s Note: If you snap an amazing solar eclipse photo and would like to share it with Space.com’s readers, send your photo(s), comments, and your name and location to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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