When it comes to spectacular sights from the cosmos, it’s hard to beat a solar eclipse. The next solar eclipse — an annular solar eclipse — will sweep across the western United States in just a few weeks and, for the nature-minded, conveniently pass through 29 National Parks, per the NPS, (and a whole lot more cities) on the way. Even if you don’t live in the path of the eclipse, it’s not too late to schedule a quick fall-break vacation in order to get a glimpse of this rare eclipse.
Here’s everything you need to know about the annular solar eclipse, including where and when you can see it, and how to view it safely.
What is an annular solar eclipse?
During an annular solar eclipse, the moon doesn’t quite cover the sun, creating a stunning glow around the edges known as the “ring of fire” effect.
A solar eclipse happens when the moon casts a shadow on the Earth, which gives the appearance of the sun disappearing — that’s why an eclipse can only be viewed from the areas on the planet where the shadow is cast. Because the Earth and sun are, of course, in constant motion, that shadow moves quickly across the surface of the planet.
The closer you are to the center of the shadow, the more “total” the solar eclipse will look. The annular solar eclipse offers a truly magical sky show that’s both exciting to witness and pretty rare — we haven’t seen one since 2012.
When and where is the 2023 annular solar eclipse happening?
This year, the 2023 annular solar eclipse happens on Saturday, October 14, and “will begin in the United States, traveling from the coast of Oregon to the Texas Gulf Coast,” says NASA.
Weather permitting, the annular eclipse will begin at 8:06 a.m. local time in Oregon. Annularity will begin at 9:16 a.m. and annularity’s maximum at 9:18 a.m. The eclipse will then move across “Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, and Texas, as well as some parts of California, Idaho, Colorado, and Arizona,” the agency adds.
From there, it will travel to “Central America, passing over Mexico, Belize, Honduras, and Panama.” Finally, the eclipse will travel through Colombia before ending in the Atlantic Ocean.
Those planning to try to catch the eclipse within the U.S. should nail down an itinerary soon. So what cities or locations will be the best views? Where should you book your Airbnb? Should you even bother, or will another one come soon enough?
“If you just sit around waiting for an annular solar eclipse to come to you, you might wait hundreds of years,” Rick Fienberg, who leads the American Astronomical Society’s solar eclipse task force, said in an interview with AFAR magazine. “Those who live in or have easy access to the path of the October 14, 2023, annular solar eclipse are quite lucky.”
A solar eclipse is best viewed from near or in the center of its pathway, which means you’ll have longer to take in this rare event. Thankfully, this annular solar eclipse’s pathway coincides with several National Parks, which will offer great opportunities to view the eclipse.
Most National Parks are far from big cities, which means less light pollution and fewer buildings and other structures obstructing your view of the eclipse. Some parks are also Dark Sky locations — meaning they’re places with minimal light pollution and ideal for seeing the night sky in its full luminous glory. The whole event of the solar eclipse will take about three hours, but annularity — where it’s fully lit — will only last about five minutes, so location to maximize your views will make a big difference.
If a trip to a National Park isn’t in the cards this October, don’t worry too much. There are several cities in the path of the eclipse; including Eugene, Oregon; Alturas, California; Battle Mountain, Nevada; Ritchfield, Utah; Albuquerque, New Mexico; and San Antonio, Texas. For a list of when the partial eclipse begins, when annularity begins and reaches maximum, and when the partial eclipse ends, check out this NASA resource. To see the cities in the path of the eclipse in each state across the United States, check out this resource of the lists of cities in each state in the path of annularity on Nationaleclipse.com.
Here’s a list of the National Parks along the pathway to start your planning:
- Crater Lake National Park, Oregon
- Lava Beds National Monument, California
- Tule Lake National Monument, California
- Great Basin National Park, Nevada
- Valles Caldera National Preserve, New Mexico
- Manhattan Project National Historic Park, New Mexico
- San Antonio Missions National Park, Texas
- Padre Island National Seashore, Texas
- Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
- Rainbow Bridge National Monument, Utah
- Navajo National Monument, Arizona
- Canyon De Chelly National Monument, Arizona
- Chaco Culture National Historical Park, New Mexico
- El Malpais National Monument, New Mexico
- Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument, New Mexico
- Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
- Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah
- Canyonlands National Park, Utah
- Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah
- Hovenweep National Monument, Utah
- Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, Colorado
- Yucca House National Monument, Colorado
- Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
- Aztec Ruins National Monument, New Mexico
- Bandelier National Monument, New Mexico
- Pecos National Historic Park, New Mexico
- Petroglyph National Monument, New Mexico
- Amistad National Recreation Center, Texas
- Lyndon B. Johnson National Historic Park, Texas
To check out the full, interactive map from the National Parks Service — including information on activities that the Parks are running on the day of the eclipse — click here.
Important safety details for viewing an annular solar eclipse.
A very important to note if you are lucky enough to view the totality of the annular solar eclipse in person: It is never safe to look directly at a solar eclipse, doing so can damage your eyes, leading to blindness and eye damage.
Some other important safety information for viewing a solar eclipse from the National Safety Council includes:
- Never look directly at the sun
- Don’t use homemade filters or ordinary sunglasses (yes — even very dark sunglasses won’t keep you safe). Only use special solar filters.
- Do not look at the solar eclipse through a telescope, binoculars, camera, your smartphone, or any other optical devices.
- You can only use special solar filters to view the eclipse. Space.com has a list of safe glasses you can purchase.
You don’t need any special equipment if you are watching the solar eclipse on TV or via a live feed.
How to make your own pinhole projector to view the solar eclipse in person safely.
Safe, classic and especially fun for kids is crafting your own pinhole projector for viewing the eclipse. These are designed to let you “see” the eclipse through the shadows it projects so you’re never looking directly at the eclipse.
While keeping your back turned to the sun, you can use any number of objects — from a pasta strainer to a Ritz cracker, to view the shadow the eclipse casts.
For a walk-through on how to DIY a safe shadow projector, NASA has a really good, easy-to-follow tutorial on YouTube.
How to watch the annular solar eclipse online.
If you don’t live near the path of this year’s annular solar eclipse, and you can’t travel to view it from a National Park, there are still ways to take in the show online.
TimeandDate.com has a planned annular solar eclipse live feed, which will be viewable on YouTube. Their cameras, which will capture the spectacular event, will be in Roswell, New Mexico. The cameras are set to go live at 10:30 a.m. EST, which you can view here.
The Exploratorium, which has teamed up with NASA over the past 20 years to share footage and information on solar eclipses, will also offer a live stream from their telescopes in Valley of the Gods, Utah, beginning at 11 a.m. EST, which you can view here.
And stay tuned for the next solar eclipse — a 2024 total solar eclipse known as the Great North American Eclipse is set to sweep across the United States in April!