Annular solar eclipse tomorrow

November 2, 2013 • 7:07 am

According to a long and informative post at, tomorrow will be a rare “annular” eclipse, where parts of the world (unfortunately not mine) will be able to see the Moon blotting out the Sun except for a ring of the Sun’s light around the edge. Sadly, most of our readers, who are in the U.S., Britain, Europe, and the Antipodes, won’t be able to see it, but if you’re in Spain or southern France you’re in luck. And the few readers in Africa and northern South America are in for a treat.

For most North American observers, the partial eclipse will coincide with sunrise.  But within a very narrow corridor that extends for 8,345 miles (13,430 kilometers) across the planet, the disks of the sun and the moon will appear to exactly coincide, providing an example of the most unusual type of eclipse: a “hybrid” or “annular-total eclipse.”

During annular solar eclipse, the sun looks like a “ring of fire,” while the moon and sun line up perfectly during a total eclipse. Throughout a hybrid eclipse, however, the celestial sight transitions from annular to total.

Here is a video (path of eclipse is the pale, elliptical shadow that moves across the Atlantic) as well as a map of its path:


In the U.S., it starts at about sunrise: 6:45 ET (don’t forget to set your clocks back tonight!).  If you’re sleeping then, you can watch it streamed live here.


Here’s what it will look like if you’re in the good zone:

Ring of Fire Sequence has a lot of info, but I’ll just give a bit more:

During the 21st century approximately 4.9 percent of all central solar eclipses — those eclipses where the moon crosses directly in front of the disk of the sun — fall into the hybrid classification.

In most cases, an annular-total eclipse starts as an annular, or “ring of fire” eclipse, because the tip of the moon’s dark shadow cone — the umbra — falls just short of making contact with the Earth; so the moon appears slightly smaller than the sun producing the same effect as placing a penny atop a nickel leaving a ring of sunlight shining around the moon’s edge.

Then the solar eclipse transitions to total, because the roundness of the Earth reaches up and intercepts the shadow tip near the middle of the path, then finally it reverts back to annular toward the end of the path.

However, as pointed out by the renowned Belgian eclipse calculator, Jean Meeus, the hybrid eclipse of Nov. 3 will be a special case: here the eclipse starts out as annular, then after only 15-seconds it will transition to a total eclipse, and then it remains total up to the very end of the eclipse path. The last time this happened was on Nov. 20, 1854 and the next such case after 2013 will occur on Oct. 17, 2172.

Here’s a picture of a solar eclipse taken from space (the dark sphere in northern Africa is the moon’s shadow):

Picture 4

37 thoughts on “Annular solar eclipse tomorrow

  1. As I understand it, the moon’s orbit is elliptical rather than circular. and the annular eclipses happen when the moon is at the most distant part of its orbit. Is this the case?

    Anyway, annular eclipses seem to falsify the perfect design argument that the moon is exactly the right size to cause a total eclipse.

    1. Both the moon and sun change their apparent size; the sun varies by about 3 percent and the moon by about 10.

    2. I think you meant…

      Given its size, the Moon is in exactly the correct position between the Earth and the Sun to result, at certain times and places on Earth, in a total eclipse of the Sun by the Moon.


      1. Or, the angular size of the Sun and Moon as seen from the Earth are nearly identical, and the orbits of all three lie on nearly the same plane. Frequently, they all fall on the exact same line, causing an eclipse.


      1. Well, only if I were in central Africa. From Toulouse it would only have been a typical partial eclipse. From my current location not too far from the Arctic circle I wouldn’t see anything at all.

        1. The site that Jerry (or got one of the pictures from is pretty much the canine’s generative organs when it comes to eclipse information. I forget the exact layout of the site, but they have lots of info about past and up-coming eclipses, so for any particular position on (or off?) the planet, they can tell you when your next eclipse of a specified intensity is going to occur.
          I also recall they’d done some Monte Carlo work to see which are the most eclipse-prone areas of the planet ; I forget what the results were though. And seeing that the eclipse intensity here is likely to be around 90%, and it’s therefore likely to be noticed by everyone on board, I’d better get a presentation together, sharpish, before someone starts asking me awkward questions.

  2. Glad that Pittsburgh isn’t in the path, because with almost all of such events we have heavy cloud cover when they happen.

    Better that they occur in places where people have a better chance of enjoying them.

  3. Boy, you scientists don’t know everything!
    So, how come if it’s an annular eclipse, it doesn’t happen every year?

      1. It means ring-y. 🙂 More formal people would say circular. Latin is tricksy – this one comes from annulus for ring.

        1. Don’t look now, whimsical beast, but you are in dire need of said detector. 😀

          …I’m sorry, musical beef it was!

    As I posted to Jerry in a different topic earlier, I’ve just moved to work at

    >Current location :

    Which is pretty close to the centre line and not far from the point of longest totality.
    I must have cuddled a tail docked kitten in my youth and rescued it from the tail-choppers. Oh yes I did!
    … And for the first time in about 4 hitches, I’ve not brought my monocular with me. I shall have to raid the welder’s shack and mackkle something together. This must be penance for something. The claws of Ceiling Cat will let me know what.

    1. I was just going to observe that it appears that the track of totality appears to cross the Prime Meridian at the Equator. You would seem to be within spitting distance of that central location in the middle of nowhere.

      Look up for me, will ya?


      1. Not only shall I look up for you, but I shall also be rousting my 18:00 to 06:00 trainee from his pit at 13:30 (local time) for him to see it.

  5. I am just out of range here in Michigan. Many years ago we lived in San Diego, and we got to see a beautiful annular eclipse at sunset while running our greyhound on a beach. Awesome night.

  6. There was a total eclipse in far North Queensland a couple of years ago. My son rode the few thousand kilometers from Melbourne to view it and arrived just in time….to see the horizon covered in cloud!

    1. The traditional approach to eclipse-chasing!
      My first (1999 pan-European eclipse) involved booking leave from work in 1991, arranging a holiday then discovering that my holiday partner and car-provider had burned out the engine just a week before the event, and finally realising that I could actually do the job on a month-long InterRail ticket. Which all actually worked out quite well.
      The cloud broke about 2 minutes before totality, with streamers of cloud still visible around the corona. Quite atmospheric.
      And the pre-eclipse weather report from the Gulf of Guinea is … not very good really – about 60% cloud cover at a couple of thousand feet. Doesn’t look like it’s going to clear up much. Showers in sight.

  7. Reasonably good results, considering that I had to scrabble around to try to make some filters to bring the Sun into the camera sensor’s range of exposures. Then a passing cloud came along and provided a dozen or so stops of neutral (-ish) filtering and gave some good one results.
    Just posting them to my own blo^H^H^H^H website, so I can link to them.
    Nature 1 ; hacked-together filters 0.3.

    1. The Sun is one of the most difficult photographic subjects there is. If you really want to drive yourself crazy…try to photograph both the Sun and the landscape, and retain detail in both. And if you want to abandon all pretense of sanity, make that landscape be the deep shadow at the bottom of the Grand Canyon….


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