STAN HONDA / AFP via Getty Images
Early risers in the northern hemisphere could see what looks like a “ring of fire” in the sky Thursday morning as the moon passes between Earth and the sun.
The solar eclipse, expected around sunrise, will appear this way because the moon is at or near the furthest point of its elliptical orbit around the Earth at this time, so when it will pass between us and our nearest star, it will just block part of the sun. A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon covers all of the sun so that only a haze of light around the obscured moon is visible.
Instead, we humans will spot one of two sites on Thursday morning:
Annular solar eclipse: This is when the moon is at its farthest point from Earth and looks very small. The entire moon passes in front of the sun, creating what looks like a donut hole in the middle of the star.
Partial solar eclipse: This happens when the three celestial bodies are not perfectly aligned, so that only part of the moon passes in front of the sun. In this case, the sun will look like it has been bitten.
Only certain people will be able to see an annular solar eclipse on Thursday.
But even a partial eclipse will still appear as if “the death star” is in front of the sun as it rises, “Jackie Faherty, an astrophysicist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, told Space.com.
Where the eclipse can be seen
According to NASA, viewers in the southeast, northeast and midwest of the continental United States, as well as northern Alaska will be able to see a partial eclipse before, during and just after sunrise.
A partial eclipse will also be visible over much of Canada as well as parts of Europe, Asia, North Africa and the Caribbean.
Residents of parts of Canada, Greenland and northern Russia will be able to see the annular eclipse, the agency said.
If you can’t see the eclipse from where you are or just want a clearer picture, NASA is broadcasting the astronomical event here and here.
The stream, which begins at 5 a.m. ET even though sunrise won’t begin until around 5:47 a.m., will show a partial solar eclipse.
How to watch the sun safely
What you heard as a child is true: it is not safe to look directly at the sun, even if it is partially covered by the moon.
That’s why NASA recommends wearing “solar or eclipse goggles” throughout the crossing. Ordinary sunglasses don’t count.
There are also creative alternatives to view the solar eclipse without risking injury to your eyes, like looking at it through a pinhole projector or building a DIY wooden solar viewer.
Haven’t we just had an eclipse?
Yes! But it was a little different.
You might be thinking of the Super Flower Blood Moon lunar eclipse that occurred in late May.
The Earth has passed directly between the sun and the moon, giving the moon a dark red hue in some parts of the world.
The lunar eclipse and solar eclipse occur so close to each other because the moon is traveling roughly on the same plane this month, according to GoScienceGo.com. One day, the moon will align with the sun on one side of the Earth, and about 15 days later, it will align with the sun on the other side.