Patt Morrison for May 18, 2012

Don’t look up! But be sure to check out Sunday evening’s solar eclipse

Children wear special glasses as they wa

FETHI BELAID/AFP/Getty Images

Children wear special glasses as they watch the first partial solar eclipse of 2011 on January 4, 2011 in Tunis. A solar eclipse happens when the Moon swings between the Earth and the Sun.

The western United States is primed for a fairly rare celestial event on Sunday — the first annular solar eclipse since 1994.

Around sunset, the Moon will pass between the Earth and the Sun, partially obscuring the Sun from our view. If you feel like traveling to Redding, California; Reno, Nevada or Albuquerque, New Mexico, you’ll be in for a rare event indeed; lucky skywatchers in those areas will see a ring of fire in the sky as the Moon blocks the middle portion of the Sun.

This striking visage will take place courtesy of the Moon at apogee (the farthest point from Earth in its orbit) where it will be too small to completely block out the sun. Staring directly at the sun can be extremely damaging to your eyes, so be sure to use any number of clever tricks astronomers suggest - shadow boxes, makeup mirrors and binoculars on the ground - to observe the eclipse.

WEIGH IN:

Do you keep up with celestial events? Are you hosting an eclipse party?

Guest:

Phil Plait, astronomer, blogger, Discover magazine; author "Death from the Skies!: These Are the Ways the World Will End…" (Viking Adult 2008)


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