A rare astronomical occurrence is set to take place this weekend when the Moon covers the Sun in a solar eclipse. Dubbed the "Ring of Fire," the eclipse is the first solar eclipse of the decade and is a rare annular solar eclipse, which means that the Moon does not fully cover the Sun and leaves a glowing ring of light exposed. The event will be visible from June 20 to 21 in certain parts of the Eastern Hemisphere, and anyone who cannot view the eclipse in person will be able to do so online.
The path of the eclipse is long but narrow and will be visible, weather permitting, beginning at sunrise in Africa before moving through parts of Asia and ending at sunset over the Pacific Ocean. NASA shares that the time of maximum eclipse from Earth's view will be at 2:40 a.m. EDT (0640 GMT) Sunday, June 21, when the Moon crosses into the center of the sphere of the Sun. The eclipse begins at 11:45 p.m. EDT Saturday, June 20 (0345 GMT Sunday) and ends at 5:34 a.m. EDT (1034 GMT) June 20. The path of visibility includes the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic, South Sudan, Sudan, Ethiopia, the Red Sea, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Oman, the Gulf of Oman, Pakistan, India, China, Taiwan, the Philippine Sea, northern Australia, and the north Pacific Ocean.
There are multiple ways to watch the eclipse online, including the Virtual Telescope Project, a set of remotely controlled robotic telescopes, beginning at 5:30 UTC and on multiple YouTube livestreams. If you do plan to view the eclipse in person, make sure to wear proper eye protection as looking directly at the Sun can be extremely damaging.
An annular eclipse is different from a full solar eclipse in that the Moon is too far from the Earth to block out the entire Sun, leaving a ring of sunlight exposure in what has become known as a ring of fire. Specific conditions must be in place for an annular eclipse to happen, including the Moon's phase and its distance from the Earth. The Moon must be in its lunar phase and it also has to be farther away from Earth on its orbit, making it appear smaller in the sky. The point at which the Moon is farthest from the Earth is known as aphelion, and the Moon will be near that point during Sunday's eclipse.