January 2009 Alerts: Ring of Fire

This Monday, a handful of lucky onlookers located about the Indian Ocean will be able to catch sight of a rather rare occurrence , an annular solar eclipse that will cause the Sun to turn into a dark disc with a ring-shaped corona blazes about the rim , much like a ring of fire. This will be much different than the solar eclipses that people are used to seeing, where the Moon moves between the Sun and Earth. As a result, a shadow is cast on the terrestrial surface.

However, when it comes to an annular eclipse, a slight shift in distance leads to the Moon not completely covering the face of the Sun , a feature that occurs in total eclipses. Some Indian Ocean residents positioned directly under the alignment will see the Moon covering most of the Sun’s surface, but with a distinct difference , a ring-like crown of solar light that emerges from the edge of the disk.

If you are situated in just the right place, the Sun appears partially obscured. Some describe this sight as if the Sun has had a bite taken from it. A veteran NASA eclipse-watcher has estimated that the total eclipse track will occur from west to east on Monday , between 0606 GMT to 0952 GMT. It’s coarse will include the Indian Ocean, western Indonesia, and the Philippines.

Residents of the southern third of Africa, Madagascar, Australia, Southeast India, Southeast Asia and Indonesia will be treated to a partial eclipse. The importance of such a sight this year is that it will serve as the only annular solar eclipse slated for 2009. The last appeared on February 7th, 2007 and the next isn’t scheduled to appear again until January 15th, 2010.

Overall, this will prove a rather joyous occasion for people that enjoy catching an eclipse or two in their lifetime. Another event to mark the calendars for this year will take place on July 22nd, where a total solar eclipse will emerge from India and China.

4 Facts About Eclipses

You should not look directly at the sun, even when an eclipse is taking place.

1.    Not all eclipses are the same , you have lunar eclipses and solar eclipses. During a lunar eclipse, a shadow blocks out the Moon, whereas a solar eclipse has a shadow that blocks the Earth’s view of the Sun.

2.    A solar eclipse usually lasts for only a couple of minutes. A lunar eclipse can last between one and two hours.

3.    During a typical year, at least two solar eclipses make an appearance. One year, up to five eclipses were documented.

4.    In the past, ancient inhabitants believed that when an eclipse took place, the Sun had been eaten by a dragon and if they were successful in making enough noise , the dragon would release the Sun and spit it back out.