Early risers across the Northern Hemisphere may see what looks like a “ring of fire” in the sky Thursday morning as the moon passes between the Earth and the sun.
The solar eclipse, expected around sunrise, will appear that way because the moon is at or near the most distant point in its elliptical orbit around the Earth right now, so when it passes between us and our nearest star it will block out just part of the sun. A total solar eclipse happens when the moon covers up the entire sun so that only a haze of light around the darkened moon is visible.
Instead, we humans will catch one of two sights Thursday morning:
Annular solar eclipse: This is when the moon is at its farthest point from the Earth and appears very small. The whole moon passes in front of the sun, creating what looks like a doughnut hole in the middle of the star.
Partial solar eclipse: This occurs when the three celestial bodies are not perfectly lined up, so only part of the moon passes in front of the sun. In this case, the sun will look like it’s had a bite taken out of it.
Only some people will be able to see an annular solar eclipse on Thursday.
But even a partial eclipse will still appear as if “the ‘Death Star‘ is in front of the sun as it’s rising,” Jackie Faherty, an astrophysicist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, told Space.com.
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SOURCE: NPR, Joe Hernandez