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Wed May 16, 2012
Solar Eclipse This Sun-day
Kansas Citians will partially see a partial solar eclipse Sunday, weather-permitting. The reason for all the partitioning is due to two phenomena: One is that the moon will only partially cover the sun, and the other, more familiar reason is that the sun will be setting when all this happens.
Sky and Telescope reports:
The farther east you are, the earlier in the eclipse the Sun sets for your location. The Eastern Seaboard misses out completely; here the Sun sets before the eclipse even begins.
The eclipse will begin at 7:24 p.m. Central time and is supposed to reach its max at 8:38 p.m. The Sun is supposed to set on Kansas City at 8:29 p.m., meaning the solar event will still be in-progress as it slinks out of view.
A solar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes between the Sun and the Earth and (in this case, partially) covers the Sun. On May 5, we saw a Supermoon, when the Moon was at its perigee - as close to Earth as it could get. On Sunday, the Moon will have made half its orbit and arrived at its apogee.
When the eclipse occurs, the Moon will fully line up with the Sun but will appear too small in the sky to completely cover it. This creates what's called an annular solar eclipse, where the Sun appears as a "ring of fire" around the darkened Moon.
The Sunday eclipse's annular effect will likely only appear to those in East Asia and parts of the Western U.S., where the Moon will block out 94 percent of the Sun's light, reports Space.com. We in Kansas City will likely have to settle for the still-spectacular partial solar eclipse. Don't cry, though; no matter where you are during the event, there will likely be some crazy sunset action along the west-northwest horizon.
If the Moon's orbit were circular rather than elliptical and in the same orbital plane as Earth, there would be total solar eclipses every month. But because of the Moon's elliptical orbit and its distance from and relation to the Earth, solar eclipses come as rarely as 5 times a year. Full solar eclipses come as rarely as twice a year.
The last solar eclipse occurred November 25 of last year and was visible to parts of the Southern Hemisphere.
Space.com has a helpful guide on how to watch this Sunday's stellar event.
Sky and Telescope has a guide on how to photograph the eclipse.