How To Watch February 26th’s ‘Ring Of Fire’ Eclipse

Sunday’s annular eclipse of the sun won’t be visible from North America but anyone can still watch it live on the Web. Credit and copyright: Kevin Baird

If you’re wondering where the moon’s disappeared to, it’s in the wings waiting to eclipse the sun. On Sunday, the new moon will pass centrally in front of the sun, eclipsing it for skywatchers living along a narrow path that slices across southern Chile, Argentina, the South Atlantic and southeastern Africa.

Watch the eclipse starting at 6:05 a.m. CST (12:05 UT) Feb. 26 right here.

While a great many people in South America, Africa and Antarctica will see at least a partial eclipse, North America and Europe will miss the event altogether as the moon passes south of the sun. No worries. The eclipse will be broadcast live by one of the SLOOH network’s many observatories starting about 6 a.m. CST (12:00 UT), so you can see it from the comfort of your home. Time and Date will also stream the eclipse from South American and Africa from 6:10 – 11:35 a.m. CST (12:10-17:35 UT). Weather prospects aren’t great on the African end of the event, but quite good from the plains of Patagonia in Chile and Argentina, where full eclipse happens around 7:40 a.m. CST (13:40 UT).

During an annular eclipse, the sun appears larger than average or the moon smaller than average — or both. Either way, the moon doesn’t completely cover the sun, and the umbra, the shadow of the moon, doesn’t touch the Earth. The path where the central eclipse or path of annularity is visible is called the ‘antumbra.’ Copyright: Fred Espenak

Sunday’s eclipse will be annular rather than total. Earth is closer to the sun in February than say, July, so the solar disk is a little larger than normal. Meanwhile the moon, currently right around its average distance from the Earth, won’t be large enough to completely cover the sun at maximum eclipse. Instead, we’ll see a very narrow ring or annulus of sun remaining, the so-called “ring of fire,” something like the ring from your coffee cup but considerably more ethereal.

This map shows Sunday’s annular eclipse path across South America, the Atlantic and Africa. Universal times (in blue) of maximum eclipse are shown at the tops of the wavy, vertical lines. Subtract 5 hours for EST; 6 for CST; 7 for MDT and 8 for PDT. Copyright: Fred Espenak with additions by the author

As annular eclipses go, this one’s achingly close to total. At peak eclipse, the ring or sunlight will be just 15″ across, thin as a popcorn shell. Wish I could be there. I’ve traveled to see two annular eclipses in my life. Seeing the sun as a ring was certainly exotic, but even more thrilling was watching the moon move across the sun in real time. The ring is narrow; in a filtered telescope it continuously changes width from one side to the other as the moon zips along its orbit. Oh, and the sky gets a little dark, too. Altogether wonderful to see.

The next annular eclipse for the U.S. occurs on October 14, 2023 along a path from Oregon to Texas.