‘Ring of Fire’ to be seen in Mississippi

Published 9:33 pm Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Mississippi residents can soak up an impressive astronomical event this weekend.

The 2023 annular eclipse – also known as a “ring of fire” eclipse – is set to occur Saturday. While it will not be a complete eclipse like in 2017, Mississippi residents should have a good view as the moon passes between the Earth and the sun.

The eclipse will be visible for people across North, Central and South America. Mississippi viewers will see a 60 to 70 percent range blockage of the sun. The maximum eclipse will be just before noon across the state.

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Skies will be sunny across the state, and residents will see the eclipse start around 11:15 a.m. and end around 1:45 p.m.

Phases of the Eclipse

According to NASA, The phases of the eclipse include:

  • Partial Eclipse: As the Moon begins to pass in front of the Sun, producing a partial eclipse. The Moon will slowly block more and more of the Sun’s light, making the Sun appear as a smaller and smaller crescent before it forms a “C” shape. This phase is also known as first contact.
  • Annularity: About an hour and 20 minutes after the partial eclipse phase begins, the Moon will pass completely in front of the Sun, leaving a “ring” of Sun visible from behind the Moon. This period is known as annularity, or second contact. It will last between 1 and 5 minutes for most places, depending on where you view it from. During the eclipse, the sky will grow dimmer, though not as dark as during a total solar eclipse. Some animals may begin to behave as if it is dusk and the air may feel cooler.
  • Return to Partial Eclipse: The Moon will then continue passing across the Sun’s face for about an hour and 20 minutes, producing another partial eclipse phase. This phase is also called third contact.
  • Partial eclipse ends: The Moon continues to move until it no longer overlaps the Sun’s disk. The eclipse is over. This phase is also known as fourth contact.

Safety tips

Be sure to take in the experience but practice eye safety.

NASA reminds people a solar eclipse is never fully blocked out by the moon. It is not safe to look at the sun without specialized eye protection. One indirect way of watching an eclipse includes using a shoe box, aluminum foil and paper to reflect the sun and the moon’s shadow on it.

“You can make your own eclipse projector using a cardboard box, a white sheet of paper, tape, scissors, and aluminum foil. With the sun behind you, sunlight will stream through a pinhole punched into aluminum foil taped over a hole in one side of the box,” NASA wrote in an eclipse safety article. “During the partial phases of a solar eclipse, this will project a crescent Sun onto a white sheet of paper taped to the inside of the box. Look into the box through another hole cut into the box to see the projected image.”

Another good way to watch the eclipse is if you can find a puddle of water with a dark background to help limit the damaging light.

Last solar eclipse for a while

A total eclipse will take place on April 8, 2024. It will be the last visible total eclipse until 2044. Parts of  Mississippi will likely have an 85 to 90 percent blockage of the sun according to NASA forecasts.

We will provide an update on best viewing times and weather conditions for the April 2024 total eclipse.