Published On: Sat, May 19th, 2012

Annular Solar Eclipse on May 20, 2012 to Depict ‘Ring of Fire’

Eclipse fanatics have something to look forward at the sky this coming Sunday, May 20, 2012 (May 21, 2012 for local time in Eastern Hemisphere) to get a view of a rare annular solar eclipse with a magnitude of 0.9439.

The eclipse will occur in the late afternoon or early evening of May 20 throughout North America, and May 21 for observers in Asia.

The annular solar eclipse starts May 21, 2012 at dawn in eastern Asia – the city of Guangzhou in southern China sits within the eclipse path, as do Osaka, Tokyo, and Yokohama in Japan, along with Hong Kong, Taipei, and Philippines.

As the eclipse path moves eastward across the Pacific, it will cross the International Dateline before entering the California / Oregon border, where it will still be May 20, 2012. The Moon’s shadow passes in the late afternoon over Nevada, Utah, Arizona, a corner of Colorado, New Mexico, and ends at sunset in Texas.

"Ring of Fire" Solar Eclipse

Annular solar eclipse rarely occurs. Unlike the common solar eclipse, the annular solar eclipse results in a so-called ‘ring of fire’ because the moon will not completely block the sun, but will leave a fiery ring around its circumference.

The ring of fire phenomenon on May 20, 2012 will last as long as 5 minutes depending on location with its maximum in the North Pacific, south of the Aleutian islands. The last known annular solar eclipse occurred in May 10, 1994, and NASA projects the next to occur in October 2023.

“I recommend anyone who has the chance to see this, because while they do happen occasionally, it’s a fairly rare event. It’s a neat thing to see,” said Jeffrey Newmark, a solar physics specialist with NASA.

Times of Annular Solar Eclipse

The solar eclipse of May 20, 2012 will begin at the following times:

Partial begin at 8:56:07 pm UTC or 3:56 pm Eastern Time
Total begin at 10:06:17 pm UTC or 5:06 pm Eastern Time
Greatest eclipse at 11:53:54 pm UTC or 6:53 pm Eastern Time
Total end at 1:39:11 pm UTC or 8:39 pm Eastern Time
Partial end at 2:49:21 pm UTC or 9:49 pm Eastern Time

Map of the Annular Solar Eclipse on May 20, 2012 in the US

What cities will the annular solar eclipse be visible in the United States?

Sadly, the East Coast part of the US will miss out on the solar eclipse entirely since the sun will have set before it begins.

However, the West Coast part will just able to view the tail end of the eclipse particularly cities such as Grants Pass, Medford, Eureka, Redding, Chico, Reno, Carson City, St. George, Farmington, Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Clovis, Roswell and Lubbock.

The late day sun will transform into a glowing ring in southwest Oregon, Northern California, central Nevada, southern Utah, northern Arizona and New Mexico and finally the Texas Panhandle where it will occur at sunset on Sunday, May 20, 2012.

Outside this narrow band, parts of the West, Midwest and South – and portions of Canada and Mexico – will be treated to a partial eclipse. More than 30 U.S. national parks lie within or very near the path as well, and most of North America will witness at least a small bit taken out of the Sun.

For die-hard sky gazers, six U.S. locations will see the moon cover about 95 percent of the sun’s diameter in a’ ring of fire’ phenomenon. They include the Petroglyph National Monument, Redwoods National Park, Lassen Volcanic National Park, Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Zion National Park and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.

NASA’s scientists will be viewing the eclipse at The Grand Canyon. They will be conducting free public programs at the Grand Canyon Village Visitor Center on Sunday (May 20, 2012), including safe telescope viewing of the eclipse as it happens.

Below is a video presentation of the May 20, 2012 annular solar eclipse courtesy of NASA and

Safe Viewing of the Solar Eclipse

Experts advise skywatchers not to look on the annular solar eclipse with bare eyes because they may develop what is called a solar retinopathy which occurs when bright light from the sun floods the retina on the back of the eyeball. The damage is often painless, so you might get it unnoticed.

To safely view the annular solar eclipse, special solar filters or No. 14 welder’s glasses can be purchased. Standard sunglasses will not provide sufficient protection.

About the Author

- is an Interaction Designer with over 12 years experience building and designing websites, games and applications for clients ranging from small startups to multi-billion dollar companies. He's now a co-founder of several start-ups yet to be known in the world of social media.

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  1. This is very educational. Watched this with my grandaughters. They’re super amazed! Thanks!

  2. Amused says:

    @Cecilia, the eclipse has not happened yet. It’s tonight.

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