May 20th, 2012: a ring of fire in the sky

I fell in to a burning ring of fire
I went down,down,down
and the flames went higher.
And it burns,burns,burns
the ring of fire
the ring of fire.

Johnny Cash

[Suggested musical theme while reading this note: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FhE6Izmkpx4 ]

Some pictures from the last solar eclipse that I witnessed on March 29th, 2006. It was very cloudy in France on that day, let's hope the weather will be better in New-Mexico this time.

On May 20th, 2012, an annular solar eclipse will be visible from North America. Because the distance between the Earth and the Moon varies (from around 356,400 km to 406,700 km), the apparent diameter of the Moon is not always big enough to cover the entire Sun during an eclipse. So, when the Sun, the Moon and the Earth are perfectly aligned but the Moon is too far away from Earth, for a couple of minutes the Sun turns into a ring of fire.

The ring of fire. (I did not take this picture, just stole it from google images at this address: http://www.en.mahidol.ac.th/control/envi_e/025632_600x450_1.jpg)

And that’s exactly what is going to happen on May 20th, 2012 on a path going from the North of California / South of Oregon to Texas. Probably the best thing about this eclipse is that it will be visible from some of the most amazing places in the west: Grand Canyon, Glen Canyon, Pyramid Lake (Nevada), Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon, Monument valley, … The hardest part will be to choose where to go.

Another great thing is that, in New-Mexico and Texas, the maximum of the eclipse (maximum = the moment when the Sun forms the ring of fire) will take place shortly before sunset, so that it could be possible to see something like that:

Credit & Copyright: Dennis L. Mammana (TWAN)
http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap090125.html

My plan is to flight from Indianapolis to Phoenix, rent a car and drive to the path of centrality of the eclipse (see: http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/SEgoogle/SEgoogle2001/SE2012May20Agoogle.html). Phoenix is ideally located to drive to different observation spots, from New-Mexico to  Utah (or even Nevada if necessary), depending on the weather forecast the day before the eclipse. Plus, it will be a good occasion for me to see a friend who left Bloomington for Phoenix last year.

I’m really excited to go back in the west, discover some new places and hopefully enjoy one of nature’s most beautiful spectacles (and take some good pictures of course). So stay tuned, by the end of May I will have some stuff to tell on this blog !

jf

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