Cycle Solar

Solar Cycle 25 Is Predicted To Be As Calm As Solar Cycle 24 – NPR

Images from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory highlight the appearance of the sun at solar minimum (left, December 2019) versus solar maximum (right, April 2014).


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Images from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory highlight the appearance of the sun at solar minimum (left, December 2019) versus solar maximum (right, April 2014).


Giant flares and eruptions from the sun can cause space weather, and stormy space weather can interfere with everything from satellites to the electrical grid to airplane communications. Now, though, there’s good news for people who monitor the phenomenon — the sun has passed from one of its 11-year activity cycles into another, and scientists predict that the new cycle should be just about as calm as the last.

That doesn’t mean, however, zero risk of extreme weather events. Even during the last, relatively weak solar cycle, drama on the sun triggered occasional weirdness on Earth like radio blackouts, disruptions in air traffic control, power outages — and even beautiful aurorae seen as far south as Alabama.

Over each solar cycle, the roiling sun moves from a relatively quiet period through a much more active one. Researchers monitor all this activity by keeping an eye on the number of sunspots, temporary dark patches on the sun’s surface. These spots are associated with solar activity like giant explosions that send light, energy, and solar material into space.

Visible light images from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory highlight the appearance of the sun at solar minimum (left, Dec. 2019) versus solar maximum (right, July 2014). Sunspots are associated with solar activity, and are used to track solar cycle progress.


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Visible light images from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory highlight the appearance of the sun at solar minimum (left, Dec. 2019) versus solar maximum (right, July 2014). Sunspots are associated with solar activity, and are used to track solar cycle progress.


Counting of sunspots goes back centuries, and the list of numbered solar cycles tracked by scientists starts with one that began in 1755 and ended in 1766. On average, cycles last about 11 years.

Based on recent sunspot data, researchers can now say that so-called “Solar Cycle 24” came to an end in December of 2019. Solar Cycle 25 has officially begun, with the number of sun spots slowly but steadily increasing.

Getting Closer To The Sun Than Ever Before

A panel of international experts convened by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has predicted that this cycle will reach its peak in July of 2025, and the intensity should be almost identical to the previous cycle, which was not very strong.

“The last cycle, Solar Cycle 24, was the fourth smallest cycle on record and the weakest cycle in 100 years,” says Lisa Upton, a solar scientist with the Space Systems Research Corporation and co-chair of the Solar Cycle 25 Prediction Panel.

That panel of experts came to agreement on the forecast for the next cycle fairly quickly. “The consensus was very solid,” says Doug Biesecker, a solar physicist at NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colo., who also served as co-chair.

Probe Gets Close To The Sun — Finds Rogue Plasma Waves And Flipping Magnetic Fields

He says solar cycle modeling has improved over the last decade or so, making it easier to make predictions. But still, the last time around, the group didn’t do too badly.

“We were very close in predicting Solar Cycle 24. It was within what we consider to be our error bar of a sunspot number of plus or minus ten,” says Biesecker. “We did get the timing of maximum wrong. And the reason for that was because we treated the sun as one big ball of gas, but the hemispheres, the south and the north, behave independently. The last solar cycle, they were out of phase with each other more so than ever before, which sort of ruined our forecast a bit.”

Besides the obvious need to protect the electrical grid and other important technology infrastructures, government officials also want to understand space weather as they try to return people to the moon.

“A trip to the moon can include periods of time when our astronauts will not be protected from space weather by the Earth’s magnetic field,” says Jake Bleacher, chief exploration scientist in NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate. “Just like here at home when you go on a trip anywhere, you’re going to check the weather report, right? You need to know what to expect.”

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Solar Started

The sun has started a new solar cycle, experts say – CNN

(CNN)Every 11 years, the sun completes a solar cycle of calm and stormy activity and begins a new one.

It’s important to understand the solar cycle because space weather caused by the sun — eruptions like solar flares and coronal mass ejection events — can impact the power grid, satellites, GPS, airlines, rockets and astronauts in space.
And we just got a bit more information about how the sun’s activity could impact us.
The new solar cycle, Solar Cycle 25, officially began in December 2019, according to an announcement by the Solar Cycle 25 Prediction Panel of international experts on Tuesday. It can take as long as 10 months to calculate when the new cycle starts, since the sun is so variable, which is why it was announced Tuesday.
Solar Cycle 25 will be very similar to the one we just experienced for the last 11 years, according to the prediction. The next solar maximum, when the sun is experiencing peak activity, is predicted to occur in July 2025. During that time, it’s possible for solar flares or other eruptions for the sun to disrupt communications on Earth.
Solar Cycle 24 was the fourth smallest cycle on record and the weakest cycle in 100 years, said Lisa Upton, co-chair of Solar Cycle 25 Prediction Panel and solar physicist at the Space Systems Research Corporation, during a press conference Tuesday.
While Solar Cycle 24 was below average, it wasn’t without risk. An epic storm erupted from the sun in July 2012, but missed colliding with Earth.
“Just because it’s a below-average solar cycle, doesn’t mean there is no risk of extreme space weather,” said Doug Biesecker, panel co-chair and solar physicist at NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center, in a statement. “The Sun’s impact on our daily lives is real and is there. (We are) staffed 24/7, 365 days a year because the Sun is always capable of giving us something to forecast.”
Biesecker compared it to hurricane season. Even if many of the storms don’t make landfall, the few that do could really matter, which is why space weather predictions are so important.
Sunspots, which are dark spots on the sun, help scientists track the sun’s activity. They are the origin point for the explosive flares and ejection events that release light, solar material and energy into space.
During the peak of solar activity in the last cycle, 120 sunspots were tracked. About 115 sunspots are predicted for the peak of this new cycle. In comparison, an above-average active cycle would include more than 200 sunspots.
“We keep a detailed record of the few tiny sunspots that mark the onset and rise of the new cycle,” said Frédéric Clette, prediction panelist and director for the World Data Center for the Sunspot Index and Long-term Solar Observations at the Royal Observatory of Belgium in Brussels. “These are the diminutive heralds of future giant solar fireworks. It is only by tracking the general trend over many months that we can determine the tipping point between two cycles.”
The more scientists learn about the solar cycle, the better they can prepare to predict when these events may occur.
Over the course of a solar cycle, the sun will transition from a calm period to one that is very intense and active. This activity is tracked by counting sunspots on the sun and how many are visible over time. During the peak of this activity, the sun’s magnetic poles flip. Then, the sun will grow quiet again during a solar minimum. And this takes place about every 11 years.
Over the past year and a half, the sun was quiet with barely a sunspot noticeable on its surface.
The solar minimum occurred in December 2019. During this period, the sun is still active, but it’s more quiet and has less sunspots. Since then, the sun’s activity has slowly increased. The new prediction suggested that the sun’s activity will peak in July 2025.
A total solar eclipse will cross North America in April 2024, which may afford scientists with the opportunity to observe the sun’s activity, like solar eruptions or sunspots, during the event.
“We hope that an eclipse close to solar maximum will not only show us an awe-inspiring corona, but also some big, interesting sunspots on the face of the Sun to help us learn about living inside the atmosphere of an active star and the space weather it creates,” said Valentin Martinez Pillet, director of the National Solar Observatory in Colorado, in a statement.
Now that we’re past the minimum, scientists have predicted the sun’s activity will increase over the months and years to come as we approach July 2025.
“As we emerge from solar minimum and approach Cycle 25’s maximum, it is important to remember solar activity never stops; it changes form as the pendulum swings,” said Lika Guhathakurta, solar scientist at the Heliophysics Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington, in a statement.

Preparing for the sun’s activity

Although the panel got the timing of the maximum wrong during the last cycle, they have improved their methods of prediction, Biesecker said.
“We treated the sun as one big ball of gas, but the hemispheres, south and north, behave independently,” he said. “During the last solar cycle, they were out of phase with each other more than ever before, which ruined our forecast.”
But monitoring the magnetic fields in the polar regions of sun has consistently provided the best forecast, he said.
“There is no bad weather, just bad preparation,” said Jake Bleacher, chief scientist for NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate at the agency’s headquarters, in a statement. “Space weather is what it is — our job is to prepare.”
Experts said that space weather is transitioning from a focus of research to a more national operational priority across a multitude of agencies, including NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Aviation Administration and many others.
This allows for better planning, preparedness and protection from space weather hazards.
The agency NOAA shares space weather predictions from its Space Weather Prediction Center in Colorado and has satellites monitoring space weather in real time. It has a hotline with electrical grid operators to warn them, so they can prepare and keep the power on, Biesecker said.
And NASA researches the near-Earth space environment, which will help improve forecasting of space weather.
In addition to protecting the technology we depend on, space weather predictions will grow increasingly important for astronauts in space.
The NASA Artemis program seeks plans to send humans out of low-Earth orbit, where the International Space Station resides, and back to the moon and on to Mars in the future.
The Gateway, an outpost that will orbit the moon and allow for astronauts to land on the moon, will host research to study space weather and radiation that astronauts and the hardware they use will experience when they return to the moon. Scientists at NASA can also use the Gateway to test items astronauts will rely on, like food and pharmaceuticals, to see how space weather could impact their efficiency, Bleacher said.
Like preparing for weather events on Earth, anticipating space weather events allows for better preparation on Earth. Agencies are working together to ensure that the space weather paradigm is similar to the weather paradigm.
“Just as NOAA’s National Weather Service makes us a weather-ready nation, what we’re driving to be is a space weather-ready nation,” said Elsayed Talaat, director of Office of Projects, Planning and Analysis for NOAA’s Satellite and Information Service in Silver Spring, Maryland.
That includes NOAA’s Space Weather Follow-On L-1 observatory, which is expected to launch in 2024 ahead of Solar Cycle 25’s predicted peak.
“This is an effort encompassing 24 agencies across the government, and it has transformed space weather from a research perspective to operational knowledge,” Talaat said.

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Orbiter Solar

Solar Orbiter returns first data, snaps closest pictures of the Sun –

Solar Orbiter Returns First Data, Snaps Closest Pictures of the Sun
Solar Orbiter spots ‘campfires’ on the Sun. Locations of campfires are annotated with white arrows. Credits: Solar Orbiter/EUI Team (ESA & NASA); CSL, IAS, MPS, PMOD/WRC, ROB, UCL/MSSL

The first images from ESA/NASA’s Solar Orbiter are now available to the public, including the closest pictures ever taken of the Sun.

Solar Orbiter is an international collaboration between the European Space Agency, or ESA, and NASA, to study our closest star, the Sun. Launched on Feb. 9, 2020 (EST), the spacecraft completed its first close pass of the Sun in mid-June.

“These unprecedented pictures of the Sun are the closest we have ever obtained,” said Holly Gilbert, NASA project scientist for the mission at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “These amazing images will help scientists piece together the Sun’s atmospheric layers, which is important for understanding how it drives space weather near the Earth and throughout the .”

“We didn’t expect such great results so early,” said Daniel Müller, ESA’s Solar Orbiter project scientist. “These images show that Solar Orbiter is off to an excellent start.”

Getting to this point was no simple feat. The novel coronavirus forced at the European Space Operations Center, or ESOC, in Darmstadt, Germany to close down completely for more than a week. During commissioning, the period when each instrument is extensively tested, ESOC staff were reduced to a skeleton crew. All but essential personnel worked from home.

“The pandemic required us to perform critical operations remotely—the first time we have ever done that,” said Russell Howard, principal investigator for one of Solar Orbiter’s imagers.

Solar Orbiter Returns First Data, Snaps Closest Pictures of the Sun
The first images from the Solar and Heliospheric Imager, or SoloHI instrument, reveal the zodiacal light (the bright blob of light on the right protruding towards the center). Mercury is also visible as a bright dot on the image left. The straight bright feature on the very edge of the image is a baffle illuminated by reflections from the spacecraft’s solar array. Credits: Solar Orbiter/SoloHI team (ESA & NASA), NRL

But the team adapted, even readying for an unexpected encounter with comet ATLAS’s ion and dust tails on June 1 and 6, respectively. The spacecraft completed commissioning just in time for its first close solar pass on June 15. As it flew within 48 million miles of the Sun, all 10 instruments flicked on, and Solar Orbiter snapped the closest pictures of the Sun to date. (Other spacecraft have been closer, but none have carried Sun-facing imagers.)

Solar Orbiter carries six imaging instruments, each of which studies a different aspect of the Sun. Normally, the first images from a spacecraft confirm the instruments are working; scientists don’t expect new discoveries from them. But the Extreme Ultraviolet Imager, or EUI, on Solar Orbiter returned data hinting at solar features never observed in such detail.

Principal investigator David Berghmans, an astrophysicist at the Royal Observatory of Belgium in Brussels, points out what he calls “campfires” dotting the Sun in EUI’s images.

“The campfires we are talking about here are the little nephews of solar flares, at least a million, perhaps a billion times smaller,” Berghmans said. “When looking at the new high resolution EUI images, they are literally everywhere we look.”

It’s not yet clear what these campfires are or how they correspond to solar brightenings observed by other spacecraft. But it’s possible they are mini-explosions known as nanoflares—tiny but ubiquitous sparks theorized to help heat the Sun’s outer atmosphere, or corona, to its temperature 300 times hotter than the solar surface.

To know for sure, scientists need a more precise measurement of the campfires’ temperature. Fortunately, the Spectral Imaging of the Coronal Environment, or SPICE instrument, also on Solar Orbiter, does just that.

Solar Orbiter Returns First Data, Snaps Closest Pictures of the Sun
This animation shows a sequence of images from the Polarimetric and Helioseismic Imager (PHI) on ESA/NASA’s Solar Orbiter. PHI measures the magnetic field near the Sun’s surface and allows the investigation of the Sun’s interior via the technique of helioseismology. Credits: Solar Orbiter/ PHI Team/ESA & NASA

“So we’re eagerly awaiting our next data set,” said Frédéric Auchère, principal investigator for SPICE operations at the Institute for Space Astrophysics in Orsay, France. “The hope is to detect nanoflares for sure and to quantify their role in coronal heating.”

Other images from the spacecraft showcase additional promise for later in the mission, when Solar Orbiter is closer to the Sun.

The Solar and Heliospheric Imager, or SoloHI, led by Russell Howard of the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., revealed the so-called zodiacal light, light from the Sun reflecting off of interplanetary dust—a light so faint that the bright face of the Sun normally obscures it. To see it, SoloHI had to reduce the Sun’s light to one trillionth of its original brightness.

“The images produced such a perfect zodiacal light pattern, so clean,” Howard said. “That gives us a lot of confidence that we will be able to see solar wind structures when we get closer to the Sun.”

Images from the Polar and Helioseismic Imager, or PHI, showed it is also primed for later observations. PHI maps the Sun’s , with a special focus on its poles. It will have its heyday later in the mission as Solar Orbiter gradually tilts its to 24 degrees above the plane of the planets, giving it an unprecedented view of the Sun’s poles.

“The magnetic structures we see at the visible surface show that PHI is receiving top-quality data,” said Sami Solanki, PHI’s principal investigator at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Göttingen, Germany. “We’re prepared for great science as more of the Sun’s poles comes into view.”

Today’s release highlights Solar Orbiter’s imagers, but the mission’s four in situ instruments also revealed initial results. In situ instruments measure the space environment immediately surrounding the spacecraft. The Solar Wind Analyser, or SWA instrument, shared the first dedicated measurements of heavy ions (carbon, oxygen, silicon, iron, and others) in the solar wind from the inner heliosphere.

Solar Orbiter returns first data, snaps closest pictures of the Sun (2020, July 17)
retrieved 18 July 2020

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Orbiter Solar

Solar Orbiter: Incredible images of the Sun reveal a new solar phenomenon – Inverse

After traveling 48 million miles in outer space toward our nearest star, the Solar Orbiter has captured the closest-ever images of the Sun. These breathtaking shots reveal never before seen features on the solar surface.

These images, released Thursday by NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) mission, are a result of the spacecraft’s first close approach to the Sun, which occurred in mid-June. The spacecraft’s groundbreaking proximity to the star’s surface enabled it to document miniatures solar flares — which scientists have dubbed “campfires.”

The spacecraft launched on February 9, 2020, with the Sun as its destination. It’s job: Getting up close and personal with our host star in order to resolve some of the lingering mysteries regarding the Sun’s magnetic field, solar storms, and how the star affects its surrounding space environment.

The Solar Orbiter travels in an elliptical orbit around the Sun, completing one orbit every 168 days. In mid-June, the spacecraft completed its first perihelion, the point in orbit closest to the Sun, and used its six telescopes to capture the star in unprecedented detail.

The different imaging instruments onboard the Solar Orbiter captured the Sun at different wavelengths. Solar Orbiter/EUI Team (ESA & NASA); CSL, IAS, MPS, PMOD/WRC, ROB, UCL/MSSL

After observing the first batch of images, scientists noticed this “campfire” phenomenon. These are believed to be are relatives of solar flares — only a million (or billion) times smaller. Solar flares are fiery eruptions of high-energy radiation that burst from the Sun’s surface.

The miniature solar flares, or campfires, are indicated by a white arrow at the top of the image, with the size of the Earth used to scale.Solar Orbiter/EUI Team (ESA & NASA)

Spotting “campfires” — David Berghmans, a space physicist at the Royal Observatory of Belgium, and principal investigator of one of the instruments onboard Solar Orbiter, was not expecting much from the Solar Orbiter’s initial set of data.

“We couldn’t believe it when we first saw this and we started giving it crazy names like campfires and dark fibrils and ghosts and whatever we saw,” Berghmans said during a press conference on Thursday. “There is so much new small phenomena going on on the smallest scale.”

The scientists investigating the images are still not sure whether the “campfires” are driven by the same mechanism as the solar flares or if they are fueled entirely differently. They do think that this newly observed phenomenon may be contributing to one of the Sun’s unsolved mysteries — the heating of the Sun’s corona.

“We couldn’t believe it when we first saw this.”

Temperatures of the Sun’s core can reach 15 million degrees Celsius. Things get relatively cooler the further you move away from the center of the Sun — it’s a balmy 5,700 degrees C at the solar surface. In the outermost part of the solar atmosphere, known as the corona, temperatures start to rise, reaching more than one million degrees C.

For years, scientists have been looking for an answer to this heating of the corona.

“These campfires are totally insignificant each by themselves, but summing up their effect all over the Sun, they might be the dominant contribution to the heating of the solar corona,” Frédéric Auchère, of the Institut d’Astrophysique Spatiale (IAS), France, and co-principal investigator of the Extreme Ultraviolet Imager, explained during the press conference.

The closest ever images of the Sun may unravel one of the star’s biggest mysteries. Solar Orbiter/EUI Team (ESA & NASA); CSL, IAS, MPS, PMOD/WRC, ROB, UCL/MSSL

What comes next — Using the Solar Orbiter’s Spectral Imaging of the Coronal Environment, or SPICE instrument, scientists will measure the temperatures of these “campfires” in order to help them better understand their origin.

The scientists behind the mission hope to uncover more mysteries of the Sun as the Solar Orbiter continues its journey — it will make its second perihelion in early 2021. A year later, the mission will officially commence its science phase with its first close approach scheduled for early 2022. At that time, the spacecraft will be as close as 26 million miles to the Sun’s surface (getting closer to the Sun than the Solar System’s innermost planet, Mercury).

The Solar Orbiter joins another spacecraft currently orbiting around the Sun: NASA’s Solar Parker Probe, which launched in August 2018. The Solar Parker Probe will get even closer to the Sun, a record-breaking distance of around 4 million miles from the Sun’s surface. But alas, the spacecraft does not carry telescopes that are capable of capturing close-up images of the star — leaving the Solar Orbiter as the only paparazzi covering our favorite star.

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eclipse Solar

Solar eclipse: 11 breathtaking photos that will *not* melt your retinas – Inverse

On Sunday, June 21, the Sun, moon and Earth were aligned in a rare occurrence. The annual solar eclipse took place a day after the celebrated summer solstice, and was visible for those lucky enough to be able to witness it in Central Africa, the Southern Arabian Peninsula, Pakistan, Northern India, and South Central China.

A partial eclipse was also visible in most of Asia, Africa, Southern, and Eastern Europe, Northern Australia and parts of the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

A solar eclipse takes place when the Moon is wedged right in the middle between the Sun and the Earth during its orbit, blocking the light of our host star. The Sun’s light appears as a burning ‘ring of fire’ from behind the shadow of the Moon.

for those of us not lucky enough to have witnessed it in person, we can still observe this rare event in stunning photos captured by stargazers across the world.

VCG/Visual China Group/Getty Images

The moment of total solar eclipse as seen from China, with the Sun’s faint ‘ring of fire’ appearing behind the shadow cast over it by the Moon.

A partial eclipse was visible from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, as seen glimmering behind the shadow of the city’s famous skyscraper, Burj Khalifa.

A time lapse image of the total solar eclipse as captured from Xiamen, China.

Hindustan Times/Hindustan Times/Getty Images

The evolution of the solar eclipse, which lasted for nearly four hours, as the Moon slowly covers the light of the Sun.

A view of the solar eclipse captured by astronaut Chris Cassidy from onboard the International Space Station, which flies approximately 250 miles above Earth.

Another view of the solar eclipse from space, this time showing the Moon’s shadow creeping up on Earth as captured by Japan’s Himawari satellite.

The ‘ring of fire’ shines in this image of the solar eclipse as seen from Taiwan, East Asia.

Anadolu Agency/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

A partial solar eclipse could also be seen from Nairobi, Kenya.

An amateur photographer captures this view of the solar eclipse above Kolkata.

Another view of the solar eclipse as it progressed during the day, captured above the skies in Surat, India.

Sky gazers in India captured these stunning images of the solar eclipse.

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pictures Solar

In pictures: Rare solar eclipse darkens Asia on the summer solstice – BBC News

A woman watches the eclipse in Bangkok

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Image caption

The eclipse was seen by skywatchers in parts of Asia – such as this woman in Bangkok

Skywatchers in parts of West Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, South Asia, southern China and Taiwan have been treated to a dramatic solar eclipse.

Photographers have taken photos of the annular eclipse – also known as a ring of fire – where the moon passes between the Earth and the Sun, leaving just a thin ring of light visible.

This eclipse coincided with the summer solstice – the northern hemisphere’s longest day of the year.

Annular eclipses occur every year or two and are only visible across a narrow band of our planet, known as the centreline. This eclipse lasted for just under 90 seconds at its point of maximum duration.

People hundreds of kilometres from the centreline did not see the actual eclipse, but they did see light drain from the day.

According to astronomers, watching the eclipse is the equivalent of switching from a 500W bulb to a 30W bulb.

Here are some of the best photos.

Guangzhou, China

Eclipse seen from Guangzhou, China

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Manila, Philippines

Manila, Philippines

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Chiayi, Taiwan

Chiayi, Taiwan

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Mumbai, India

Mumbai, India

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Karachi, Pakistan

Karachi, Pakistan

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fire' Solar

‘Ring of fire’ solar eclipse 2020: Here’s how it works (and what to expect) –

The first full day of summer in the Northern Hemisphere will bring with it one of nature’s great sky shows: an annular solar eclipse.  

On Sunday (June 21), the new moon will orbit between the sun and Earth and will pass squarely across the face of the sun for viewers along a very narrow path that will run through central and northeast Africa, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, northern India, and southern China including Taiwan. But instead of completely blocking the sun, it will leave a “ring of fire” from the sun when it peaks. 

You can watch the event live online in these webcasts if you don’t leave near its visibility path. Most webcasts begin at 1 a.m. EDT (0500 GMT). The eclipse itself begins at 11:45 p.m. EDT Saturday, June 20 (0345 GMT Sunday), peaks at 2:40 a.m. EDT (0640 GMT) and ends at 5:34 a.m. EDT (1034 GMT) June 20. Here’s a list of times for the start and end of the eclipse, depending on your viewing location, from Dominic Ford of

IMPORTANT: Be sure to wear proper eye protection like eclipse glasses if you observe the eclipse in person! 

Related: Solar eclipse guide 2020: When, where & how to see them

How Solar Eclipses Work (Infographic)

Not quite a total eclipse

Photographer Alexander Krivenyshev of captured the

Photographer Alexander Krivenyshev of captured this view of the “ring of fire” annular solar eclipse of Dec. 26, 2019 from Al Hofuf in Saudi Arabia. (Image credit: Alexander Krivenyshev )
See the solar eclipse?

If you see the 2020 annular solar eclipse, let us know! Send images and comments to to share your views.

During a total eclipse of the sun, the entire disk of the sun is covered by the moon. The end result is a beautiful spectacle in which a beautiful halo of pearly white light — the solar corona — suddenly flashes into view. Semidarkness settles over the landscape and a few of the brighter stars and planets may appear. Then after a few seconds or minutes, totality ends and the great show is over.

But an annular eclipse, such as the one that will take place on Sunday, falls just short of providing such a celestial pageant, because the moon will be just a little too far from the Earth to completely cover the disk of the sun. The dark conical shadow of the moon (called the umbra), from where we can see a total eclipse, extends for 235,600 miles (379,100 kilometers) out into space.  

But unfortunately, on Sunday, the moon’s distance from Earth will be 237,100 miles (381,500 km) from Earth. So the moon’s dark umbral shadow will fall 1,500 miles (2,400 km) short of reaching the Earth’s surface. In such a case, an annular eclipse results.

This map shows the region of visibility (in percent of sun coverage) for the

This map shows the region of visibility (in percent of sun coverage) for the “ring of fire” annular solar eclipse of June 21, 2020. (Image credit: © Dominic Ford/

We can imagine a “negative shadow” or anti-umbra, as the mirror image of the umbra, beginning at the tip of the umbral shadow and extending out to infinity. The ground track of the anti-umbra traces out a “path of annularity” and observers who are within this narrow shadow track, which will average about 33 miles (53 km) in width, will see the dark silhouette of the moon, surrounded by a ring of bright sunlight. 

That ring will be exceedingly narrow; the moon’s apparent diameter will be 99.4% as large as that of the sun, so the width of that ring of sunlight at its thinnest will measure no more than six-tenths of one percent of the sun.  

Thus a bright ring of the sun’s disk will remain uneclipsed, unfortunately bright enough to prevent a view of the solar corona and keeping the sky just bright enough to squelch any view of the stars and most of the planets. The term annular is derived from the Latin word annulus, meaning “ring shaped,” and in recent years, the mainstream media have branded such events as “ring of fire” eclipses.

In Photos: Annular Solar Eclipse of May 20, 2012

‘Ring of fire’ solar eclipse explained

While admittedly an annular solar eclipse cannot compare to a total one, it is still a most interesting and exciting celestial event. Here is a guide to give you an idea of what you can expect to see.

First, be sure to be watching at the time the eclipse is live (most of the webcasts listed here begin at 1 a.m. EDT or 1:30 a.m. EDT (0500-0530 GMT). The most interesting period will likely be centered on the time of greatest eclipse, which will come at 2:40 a.m. EDT (0640 GMT) on Sunday (or if you live in the Pacific Time Zone, Saturday night at 11:40 p.m. PDT).

A visibility map for the annular solar eclipse of June 21, 2src2src.

This map shows the path of annularity (in red) for the annular solar eclipse of June 21, 2020. (Image credit: Fred Espenak/NASA)

Along the path of the annular eclipse, the partial phase will last about 90 minutes before and after the ring phase of the eclipse. 

First contact of the moon with the sun is essentially undetectable, but within a few minutes observers will see the moon cutting a scallop out of the lower right-hand edge of the sun. For approximately the next one and a half hours the moon will slowly move across the face of the sun.

If the foliage around the observer is suitable, tiny overlapping crescents of light may be shown, dappling the ground beneath trees, the result of innumerable “pinhole camera” effects as sunlight filters through the leaves. 

Related: Solar Eclipse Photography: Tips, Settings, Equipment and Photo Guide

Cut down to a crescent

By the time the sun is 80% eclipsed, it will have the shape of an elongated crescent. Sunlight will be coming only from the sun’s redder limb regions; overall illumination on the ground will be dusky and yellow, becoming progressively redder until the moment of annularity.

On-site observers will probably allude to how much cooler the air is getting; temperatures may drop 10 degrees Fahrenheit (6 degrees Celsius) or more. Cumulus clouds — those clouds that resemble big balls of fluffy cotton — will tend to dissipate, but ground fog might form in lowlands. Shadows will become distinctly sharper as the sun becomes more and more misshapen, narrowing to a thin arc or filament of light. 

Because the geometry of this event is almost like that of a total eclipse, there is every reason to check a few minutes before and after annular eclipse, for faint, mysterious rippling waves of dark and light moving across the ground or along the sides of buildings. Called “shadow bands,” these waves apparently result from irregularities in the Earth’s atmosphere.       

As the ring phase approaches, events will accelerate: a weird “counterfeit twilight” will fall across the landscape.  The eerie dimming at midday, while admittedly not so dramatic as during a total eclipse, may bring about unusual behavior by birds, livestock, and insects.

No stars are likely to be seen, but it should be easy to spot Venus, shining at a brilliant magnitude of -4.5, 25 degrees west of the sun. (Your closed fist covers about 10 degrees of the sky when held out at arm’s length.)

Beads of light

A look at Baily's beads from a total solar eclipse.

A look at Baily’s beads from a total solar eclipse as seen by photographers Imelda Joson and Edwin Aguirre. (Image credit: Imelda Joson and Edwin Aguirre)

Probably the most readily observable phenomenon at Sunday’s eclipse will undoubtedly be the formation of Baily’s beads.  

These are the lingering glints of sunlight appearing through valleys on the eastern limb of the advancing moon, just as a total eclipse begins, and then at the western limb when it ends. The nearly identical sizes of the disks should also cause beads to appear at the northern and southern limbs of the moon as well, depending on an observer’s location within the central path. 

It is not well known that Francis Baily’s original sighting of the beads occurred at the eclipse of May 15, 1836, which was annular rather than total. By the time the narrowing crescent had grown so that it nearly encircled the sun, with a 40-degree gap remaining between the cusps, Baily saw a row of lucid points spring up between them suddenly, as if ignited by a fine train of gunpowder.  

In the next few seconds the points elongated and gradually fused together, but what especially fascinated him, as recounted in Robert Gran’s 1852 History of Physical Astronomy, was the manner in which the last few lunar mountains seemed to stretch out, almost as if the moon’s edge were “formed of some dark, glutinous substance, which by its tenacity adhered to certain points of the sun’s limb, and by the motion of the moon was thus drawn out into long threads …”  When these dark threads finally snapped, the moon’s limb recovered its fairly smooth appearance and was already perceptibly advanced on the face of the sun.

In any case, since the upcoming eclipse is also annular, observers might want to be on the lookout both at the beginning and end of the annular phase for the dark threads Baily described. 

Near the beginning and end of the annular track, the “ring of fire” may last as long as 82 seconds.  At the middle of the track in northern India, the duration of annularity will last only 38.2 seconds.  

After the annular eclipse has ended, everything will happen in reverse order as the moon continues on its way, gradually uncovering more and more of the sun. 

Next year, it’s our turn!

While this eclipse will be exclusively an Eastern Hemisphere event, North America will not have very long to wait to see an annular eclipse of its own.  In less than a year — June 10, 2021 — the path of an annular solar eclipse will track from the northern shoreline of Lake Superior, north-northwest across James and Hudson Bay, through Nunavut and the Canadian Arctic Archipelago on up to the North Pole.  

Meanwhile, New York State, New England and Eastern Canada, will be treated to the sight of a large partial eclipse which will coincide with sunrise.  Instead of coming up as it normally does, resembling an orange-yellow disk, on this June morning the sun will emerge above the east-northeast horizon resembling a scimitar or a horseshoe with upturned pointed tips.

Editor’s Note: If you capture a stunning photo of the solar eclipse and would like to share it with’s readers, send your photos, comments, and your name and location to  

Joe Rao serves as an instructor and guest lecturer at New York’s Hayden Planetarium. He writes about astronomy for Natural History magazine, the Farmers’ Almanac and other publications. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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eclipse Solar

Solar eclipse 2020: When and where to see the annular eclipse – CNN

(CNN)This weekend, stargazers in the Eastern Hemisphere will be treated to an annular solar eclipse on the heels of the summer solstice. This type of eclipse is characterized by its stunning “ring of fire” since it’s not a total eclipse and edges of the sun can still be seen around the moon.

“Annular eclipses are similar to total eclipses in that the moon, Earth and sun are aligned so that the moon moves directly in front of the Sun as viewed from Earth,” said Alex Young, associate director for science in the heliophysics science division at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.
“But a total eclipse does not happen, that is the moon does not completely block out the visible disk of the sun because the moon is farther away and so its apparent size in the sky is [slightly] smaller than the sun. This means that a tiny ring of annulus of the solar disk is visible around the moon.”
Solar eclipses occur about two weeks before or after a lunar eclipse, Young said. There was a lunar eclipse on June 5 and the next one occurs on July 5.

Where to see it

The annular eclipse will begin at 12:47 a.m. ET (4:47 UTC) on June 21 and cross a skinny path that starts at sunrise in Africa and eventually moves across to China before ending at sunset over the Pacific Ocean. It will peak at 2:40 a.m. ET (6:40 UTC) and end around 4:32 a.m. ET (8:32 UTC).
The partial eclipse will begin at 11:45 p.m. ET (3:45 UTC) on June 20 and end at 5:34 a.m. ET (9:34 UTC) on June 21
Check for more specific timing in your area.
It will be visible over central Africa, the southern Arabian Peninsula, Pakistan, Northern India and South Central China, Young said. A partial eclipse will be seen over most of Asia, Africa, South and East Europe, northern Australia and parts of the Pacific and Indian Oceans, he added.
And of course, this is weather permitting, so hopefully the skies will be clear.
The entire eclipse will last about 3.75 hours, but the duration as it passes over individual locations will equal to around a minute and a half. During the peak, that will actually shorten to just over 30 seconds.

How to watch

Although this isn’t a total solar eclipse, you still need to watch the eclipse using safety measures.
“Because the Sun is so incredibly bright, it is still too bright to look at with unprotected eyes,” Young said. “You need safe solar viewing glasses or special filters for use with telescopes or binoculars.”
Any glimpse of the sun’s brightness is not only uncomfortable — it’s dangerous. Looking directly at the powerful brightness of the sun can cause damage to the retina, the light-sensitive part of the eye. Even the smallest amount of exposure can cause blurry vision or temporary blindness. The problem is, you won’t know whether it’s temporary at first.
Whether you use the cardboard eclipse glasses or a handheld card with a single rectangular view, the most important feature is the filter. Make sure your eclipse glasses meet the ISO 12312-2 international safety standard. Eclipse glasses can be worn over regular eyeglasses.
To test for safety, the only thing you can see through a safe solar filter is the sun itself. If you look through and the sun is too bright, out of focus or surrounded by a murky haze, or if you can see things like ordinary household lights, the glasses aren’t safe.
If you’re tempted to reuse eclipse glasses that are three years or older, they were made before the international safety standard was in place and come with a warning that says you can’t look through them for more than three minutes at a time. These should be discarded, according to the American Astronomical Society.

Safety first

If you plan on watching the eclipse through a camera, a telescope or binoculars, buy a solar filter to place on the end of the lens. But do not wear eclipse glasses while looking through any of these. The concentrated light will go right through the filters and cause injury to your eyes.
Here are safety tips to remember, according to the American Astronomical Society:
  • Always inspect your solar filter before use; if it’s scratched, punctured, torn or otherwise damaged, discard it. Read and follow any instructions printed on or packaged with the filter.
  • Always supervise children using solar filters.
  • If you normally wear eyeglasses, keep them on. Put your eclipse glasses on over them, or hold your handheld viewer in front of them.
  • Stand still and cover your eyes with your eclipse glasses or solar viewer before looking up at the bright sun. After looking at the sun, turn away and remove your filter; do not remove it while looking at the sun.
  • Do not look at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun through an unfiltered camera, telescope, binoculars or other optical device.
  • Similarly, do not look at the sun through a camera, a telescope, binoculars or any other optical device while using your eclipse glasses or handheld solar viewer; the concentrated solar rays could damage the filter and enter your eyes, causing serious injury.
  • Seek expert advice from an astronomer before using a solar filter with a camera, telescope, binoculars or any other optical device; note that solar filters must be attached to the front of any telescope, binoculars, camera lens or other optics.

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