Northern California — farther north than the Bay Area — will be a prime viewing zone for the annular solar eclipse on May 20. When the moon passes between the Earth and the sun in late afternoon, it will blot out all but a glowing ring, the annulus.
Among cities in the "path of annularity," about 185 miles wide, are Eureka, Redding and Reno. Maximum eclipse will last about four minutes around 6:30 p.m. The Bay Area will experience a partial eclipse with more than 90 percent of the sun obscured. This crescent-sun phenomenon will be visible in other parts of the western United States as well. It will be the first annular eclipse visible from the continental United States since May 1994.
The eclipse is the front half of an astronomical double-header: On June 5, part of the Transit of Venus will be visible in the United States. In that event — rarer than the annular eclipse — the planet Venus will cross in front of the sun, visible to the unaided eye. (Skygazers are warned to use proper viewing devices for both events, as looking at the sun can cause permanent eye damage.)
In the Bay Area, the transit will start a few minutes after 3 p.m., with Venus appearing as a dot at the top edge of the sun. It will continue on a path across the right side of the sun. The sun will set before the transit is completed.
The best viewing, the full transit, will be from the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
Venus transits occur in pairs eight years apart; the 2004 transit was not visible in the western United States because it occurred after sunset. The previous pair was in 1874 and 1882, and the next will be in 2117 and 2125.
|From Mundane Charts 2|