Moon to obscure sun in partial solar eclipse

By Andrew Bridges The Associated Press
Thursday June 06, 2002

LOS ANGELES – A dazzling solar eclipse will be on display across a broad swath of the western United States, Mexico, Canada and Asia on Monday, with as much as 99 percent of the sun obscured by the moon. 

One of the best U.S. views will be in San Diego where as much as three-fourths of the sun will be hidden. 

Other sections of the country will get a less dramatic sight. In Chicago, only one-fifth of the sun’s surface will be blocked. The Eastern Seaboard will miss the eclipse entirely because it will occur after sunset there. 

The early evening event is called an annular, or ring-shaped, eclipse. Because the moon will be farther from the Earth than during total eclipses, it will only partially cover the distant sun. It will be the last eclipse visible from the United States until 2005. 

In places such as the tip of Mexico’s Baja California peninsula, the moon will darken all but only the glowing rim of the sun for about a minute, said Fred Espenak, a National Aeronautics and Space Administration astrophysicist and eclipse expert. The eclipse will begin at 5:13 p.m. PDT, with best viewing time around 6:20. 

“If you’re in the path, you’d see, instead of a typical sunset, an extremely thin ring — a ring of fire — setting into the ocean,” said Espenak, who plans to be there to watch. 

The moon’s shadow will follow an 8,700-mile path, racing eastward from Asia across the Pacific Ocean at 1,000 mph. In Asia, across the international date line, the eclipse actually occurs Tuesday. 

Because it’s a partial eclipse, the sun’s light will be only dimmed. 

“It’s like a light cloud passing in front of the sun,” said John Mosley, an astronomer at the Griffith Park Observatory in Los Angeles. 

Even though it’s a partial eclipse, Mosley warned against looking directly at the sun. 

Instead, he recommended peering through commercially available solar filters, which block all but a fraction of the sun’s light. Viewers also can use binoculars, not to look through, but to safely project the sun’s image onto an index card. 

A Dec. 4 total eclipse will be visible from southern Africa and Australia.