Beginning at about 6:20PM (Mountain Daylight Time) the Moon will pass in front of the Sun. The eclipse will reach maximum about an hour later, and ends just before sunset, at around 8:40 PM).
The centerline of the eclipse path as it passes through the western United States extends from Crescent City, California (just below the border with Oregon) through Albuquerque, New Mexico. Observers along this line will see the Moon pass directly in front of the Sun, with only a thin bright ring of sunlight, sort of a celestial hula-hoop, surrounding the Moon. This is called an “annular” eclipse. “Annular” refers to the thin ring (the “annulus”) of sunlight around the Moon, and is not to be confused with “annual” which refers to something that happens every year.
To give you an idea of how rare these are, there hasn’t been an annular eclipse visible from the US since 1994. The next annular eclipse visible from the western US won’t be until 2023.
Observing this annular eclipse on May 20th will also be good practice for observing the Transit of Venus on June 5th, and for the August 21, 2017 total eclipse of the Sun that will slash across the US from coast-to-coast.
So are you excited yet?
Of course you are.
Down south, viewers will see the Moon block out all of the Sun except for a thin ring of light.
Here in northern Utah, we’ll get to see almost 90% of the Sun covered by the Moon. Not a complete eclipse, but impressive nonetheless.
So now the question is, how do I observe the May 20th eclipse? Well, the obvious answer is, “Go outside and look.” We’ve posted lots of info on how to safely observe the eclipse (link), but what if you want to hang out with some knowledgeable people who have the right equipment and just mingle with other eclipse-watchers?
We’ve got you covered.
On Sunday, May 20th, beginning at 6PM, Clark Planetarium and members of the Salt Lake Astronomical Society will have solar telescopes and staff at the following locations:
Downtown Salt Lake City at The Gateway (near the fountain west of the Union Pacific Depot Building) – located at approximately 450 West & South Temple.
Downtown Salt Lake City at Library Square – located at approximately 200 East and 500 South.
Downtown University of Utah South Physics Observatory – located at 125 South and 1400 East.
Murray, in front of the Sam’s Club at 6525 S. State Street, at the North end of the parking lot.
Sandy at the Dimple Dell Recreation Center – located at 10600 South and 1000 East.
Also, my friends at Weber State University (Ogden, Utah) will be opening up their observatory and will have a solar telescope and staff available.
And the folks down in Cedar City have a whole weekend’s worth of information to share with the eclipse, since they’re smack-dab in the sweet spot for viewing.
We’ll have additional information about viewing methods and locations as we get closer to May 20th, so keep reading the planetarium’s blog!