The days are darkening, but on Sunday, November 3 that will be accentuated with a sunrise that is a bit more shadowy than usual, and not because of this weekend’s end to Daylight Savings Time.
Just as the sun peeks over the horizon on Turtle Island’s Eastern Seaboard, the moon will move in front of it in a partial eclipse. In fact the moon will already be in the process of taking a chunk out of the sun when the configuration edges over the horizon. The result, astronomers say, should be disconcertingly, eerily stunning.
As the morning wears on, it will form what is known in astronomical parlance as a hybrid solar eclipse, which will start out annular (the moon’s disk, smaller than the sun’s, will not completely obscure it) for some parts of the world and progress to total in others. In May 2012 an annular eclipse cut a swath across Indian country.
A hybrid solar eclipse is extremely rare, and most of that will occur over the Atlantic Ocean, Africa and elsewhere to the east.
“The eclipse appears fleetingly as an annular—or ring eclipse—at its start in the Atlantic Ocean and becomes a brief total eclipse later on. Along the long yet narrow central eclipse path, one can see the total eclipse, but much of the world outside that exclusive path will see a partial eclipse on Sunday,” Earthsky.org reports. “The partial eclipse will be visible from far-eastern North America, the Caribbean, northern South America, southern Greenland, the Atlantic Ocean, southern Europe, Africa, Madagascar and the Middle East.”
But the show that the U.S. East Coast gets, at least those folks with an unobstructed view of the horizon who are willing to arise before 6:30 a.m. Eastern Standard Time (if you don’t set your clocks back you will lose an hour of sleep for no reason) will be spectacular.
“They will see, near the East Coast, 60 percent of the sun covered by the moon,” said astronomy professor Jay M. Pasachoff of Williams College in Massachusetts to The New York Times. “You do have to have a low horizon that doesn’t have trees or mountains or buildings blocking your view.”
Those within the viewing area will need to be attuned, since it will come and go pretty quickly. It will all be over, at least for us, a mere 45 minutes later, and the sun will still have only just cleared the horizon, the Times said.
“Assuming you have a flat horizon and good sky conditions, the western limit of the event’s visibility runs through southern Ontario, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, and the Florida Panhandle,” according to Earthsky.org.
Of course, there are many who will steer clear on purpose. Among the traditional Navajo, for instance, eclipse viewing is considered taboo. Luckily, this one comes nowhere near Navajo territory.
Those who are interested in viewing absolutely must do so with safety. Looking directly at the sun without proper eye protection can cause drastic, permanent damage to the retina, and thus the eyesight. There are several ways to observe the sun, from low-tech to telescopic.
A wealth of information is available at NASA’s Total Solar Eclipse of November 3, with detailed maps compiled at Eclipse-maps.com’s The Annular-Total Solar Eclipse of November 3, 2013.
If the morning sky is cloudy, or you don’t have an unobstructed view of the horizon, or if you are not located within the eclipse viewing area, never fear. As usual, the Slooh Space Camera will be on hand to livestream the event at the video link below. The show starts at 6:45 a.m.