Live in the Midwest? Enjoy a rare sunset solar eclipse

If you live in the gray band or are planning a trip there, you'll see the full annular eclipse. The red line shows where the moon will pass squarely over the sun's face. Click map to see an interactive version where you can click on your city to get local times and coverage for the eclipse. See below for more local times. Credit: NASA

Most of us won’t be in the path of the annular eclipse that cuts across the western U.S. this Sunday afternoon. That means we’ll see varying degrees of a partial eclipse. The farther west and south you are, the more of the sun will go missing. Across the Midwest, about 2/3 of the sun will be covered at maximum eclipse.  Viewed through a safe solar filter or indirectly, by projecting the sun’s image onto a sheet of white paper with binoculars, the eclipsed sun will be a lovely sight.

If you still would like to observe the sun directly but can’t find a mail-order solar filter, contact your local welding supply store and purchase a #14 welder’s glass.

Much of the U.S and Canada, will see a rare partial eclipse at sunset Sunday. This photo is from the June 10, 2002 eclipse. Credit: Christopher Go

For a wide swath of the central U.S. and Canada, the sun sets while still in eclipse, giving us a rare and scenic opportunity to observe a most unique sunset. I may be stuck in Duluth, but you better believe I’ll be somewhere where I can see right down to the northwestern horizon Sunday night.

Consider hunting up a similar spot where you live. Take the family and friends and arrive a little before eclipse start. My guess is that you’ve photographed sunsets before; this time your sun will take on a whole new appearance. If you stick around into twilight, you’ll even be able to see Venus a little more than “two fists” above and left of the sunset point. Binoculars will show it as a tiny crescent moon.

View of Sunday's partial solar eclipse from Duluth, Minn. At maximum eclipse at 8:17 p.m., the sun will be only 3 degrees or "two fingers" above the horizon. The sun sets while still in eclipse. Created with Chris Marriott's SkyMap

The whole event happens in the early evening with the sun low in the western sky.  For Duluth, Minn. the moon takes it first nibble of the solar cookie at 7:17 p.m. when the sun is only 12 degrees high or about a balled fist held at arm’s length against the sky. Maximum eclipse – when the most sun is covered – occurs an hour later at 8:17 p.m., when 66% of the sun’s disk is blocked.

Even though our weather forecast is grim, Sunday night is expected to clear out. Because clear skies often start in the west and move east, the sun sometimes pops out at sunset from beneath the blanket of clouds. Don’t miss it.

Here’s a sampling of eclipse times for major cities not in the annular path but that will still experience a nice partial eclipse. The listed times are local, meaning the time you see on your watch or cellphone if you live there.  Eclipse start and maximum coverage times are shown:

* Minneapolis, Minn. — 7:19 p.m. start / 8:19 p.m.  max / 67% covered / Sun sets in eclipse
* Fargo, ND — 7:16 p.m. / 8:18 p.m. / 66% / Sun sets in eclipse
* Winnipeg, Manitoba — 7:13 p.m. / 8:14 / 61% / ”     ”
* Madison, Wis. —  7:21 p.m. / 8:20 p.m. /  68% / ”     ”
* Chicago, Ill. — 7:22 p.m. / 8:21 p.m. / 69% / ”     ”
* Detroit, Mich. — 8:21 p.m. Sun only 4 degrees high at start and sets before maximum
* Indianapolis, Ind. — 8:24 p.m. with sun 5 degrees high. Sets before max.
* Memphis, Tenn. — 7:29 p.m. with sun 5 degrees high. ”     ”
* Montgomery, Ala. — 8:30 p.m. with sun only 1 degree high. ”     ”
* Omaha, Neb. — 7:23 p.m / 8:25 / 76%
* Kansas City, Kan. — 7:25 p.m. / 8:27 p.m. /  79% Max. eclipse happens at sunset
* Denver, Colo. — 6:23 p.m. / 7:30 p.m. / 86%
Dallas, Tex. – 7:32 p.m. / max eclipse of 94% occurs ~12 mins. after sunset
* Salt Lake City, Utah — 6:19 p.m. / 7:30 / 89% / Eclipse ends just before sunset
* Las Vegas, Nev. — 5:24 p.m. / 6:36 p.m. / 92% / Eclipse ends at sunset
* Billings, Mont. — 6:14 p.m. / 7:22 p.m. / 77% Eclipse ends before sunset
* Seattle, Wash. — 5:02 p.m. / 6:18 p.m. / 83% Eclipse ends before sunset
* Portland, Ore. — 5:04 p.m. / 6:21 p.m. / 88% ”      ”

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About astrobob

My name is Bob King and I work at the Duluth News Tribune in Duluth, Minn. as a photographer and photo editor. I'm also an amateur astronomer and have been keen on the sky since age 11. My modest credentials include membership in the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO) where I'm a regular contributor, International Meteorite Collectors Assn. and Arrowhead Astronomical Society. I also teach community education astronomy classes at our local planetarium.

16 thoughts on “Live in the Midwest? Enjoy a rare sunset solar eclipse

  1. We are going to Lava Beds National Monument to view the annular eclipse and are having a big event with it like activities and viewing through solar scopes. Since we are in one of the darkest skies in the U.S. we will set up several telescopes for night stargazing tomorrow and Sunday. We are hopeing to get Venus on one last view and ofcorse we will see Saturn, Mars and Garradd.

  2. Bob-
    I thoroughly enjoy reading your articles in Astronomy every month. But the reason I’m writing is to thank you for publishing an understandable schedule of the May 20th eclipse. I found a bunch of sites with times published in “UTC adjusted for MDT” and such. That’s great, if you know what the hell that means. All I needed was to know what time it starts in Denver, in Denver time. Thanks for that, and thanks again for your articles in Astronomy.

    Jon

    • Thanks Jon for you kind words. By the way, I’m a different Bob from the fellow in Astronomy magazine. That’s Bob Berman – he’s excellent! His page is the first thing I read in the magazine each month.

  3. So if we casually look up to the sky during the eclipse it may damage our eyesight?? I hope children playing outside are aware of this…i live in san diego calif and have 2 kids.

    • Les,
      A very quick, casual glance like we’ve all done at one time or another – like when you flip the visor down in the car to block the blinding sun – won’t damage your eye. Staring at it directly for a few seconds is definitely not recommended.

  4. Bob, I thought you were driving to Arizona! Did you get a flat tire or something?

    • Hi Steve,
      Yes, we were but my wife had an accident and injured her back (broken vertebra) and broke her wrist. I’m helping her out at home now. Hopefully it’ll be clear somewhere in the region this evening for a look at the eclipse.

    • Shawn,
      You’ll see a little less than 2/3 of the sun covered. It will happen with the sun very low in the western sky. Click on that map, find your town and check the times. Remember to subtract 4 hours from the times shown to get Eastern Daylight.

  5. Thank you ! Thank you! Thank you!! Saw the eclipse and got some really good pictures( I think ) . Thanks for all the information you share!!

  6. We were driving home tonight and I told my kids to look at that tiny sliver of what we thought was the moon. Then we realized what made it so beautiful was the sunset and that it was the sun! We thought it was an eclipse but we weren’t for sure! I grabbed my phone to Google it and found your website. Great view in Kansas City, MO!

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