ASHEBORO N.C. – On Saturday, October 14th, 2023, an annular solar eclipse will cross western North America, and while only a few cities will see the ‘ring of fire,’ here in North Carolina we may still have something neat to witness.
The 2023 solar eclipse is what’s known as an annular, or partial, solar eclipse. The moon will pass between the orbit of the Earth and the Sun casting a shadow on the Earth across its path. Due to the distance between the Earth, moon, and Sun, the moon will not fully cover the Sun in the sky, creating a “ring of fire” around the moon when it lines up directly with the sun.
To see the ‘ring of fire’ you need to be within the 125-mile path of annularity, which for this eclipse covers a path starting on the west coast and ending in southern Texas.
Here in Randolph County the eclipse will start at around noon and at its peak, occurring at 1:18 p.m., we can expect the moon to cover approximately 40% of the sun.
For context, during the ‘Great American Eclipse,’ a total solar eclipse which occurred on August 21st, 2017, Randolph County saw around 90% coverage of the Sun.
At 40% coverage the darkening effect at the peak of the eclipse will not be as apparent as it was for the total solar eclipse Randolph County witnessed in 2017. Due to the almost three-hour duration of the eclipse, the dimming effect will be so gradual as not to be noticed.
Annular solar eclipses create crescent-shaped shadows during partial phases. These neat shadows should be visible around the peak of the eclipse.
Will clouds prevent us from seeing anything?
The National Weather Service Office in Raleigh is forecasting 80% cloud coverage for the hours of noon through 2pm, when the eclipse will be visable in Randolph County, ahead of rain and storms starting at 4pm.
It’s possible that the low-pressure system bringing the clouds and rain may arrive earlier or later, allowing for more breaks in the clouds.
How to safely view the eclipse
Due to the fact the Sun is not completely blocked out during an annular, or partial, solar eclipse it is not safe at any time to look directly at the Sun without specialized eye protection made specifically for solar viewing. “Eclipse glasses are NOT regular sunglasses; regular sunglasses, no matter how dark, are not safe for viewing the Sun,” says NASA, which provides the following safety tips.
- Always inspect your eclipse glasses or handheld viewer before use; if torn, scratched, or otherwise damaged, discard the device.
- Always supervise children using solar viewers.
- Do NOT look at the Sun through a camera lens, telescope, binoculars, or any other optical device while wearing eclipse glasses or using a handheld solar viewer — the concentrated solar rays will burn through the filter and cause serious eye injury.
If you don’t have eclipse glasses or any kind of solar filter there are still ways to view the eclipse, all be it indirectly. The American Astronomical Society has a webpage with indirect methods to safely view the eclipse, including a method that uses just your hands.
Will NC get a good solar eclipse anytime soon?
Yes, and no. The next eclipse, a total solar eclipse, will occur on April 8th, 2024. That eclipse’s path of totality will cross just west of Tennessee and Kentucky, placing central NC in the 80% coverage area.
Featured Image: Sun Earth And Moon Background – Brutto film / Adobe Stock