'Ring of fire' solar eclipse: When and how to view celestial show in SoCal

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Friday, October 13, 2023
'Ring of fire' solar eclipse: When and how to view in SoCal
A rare "Ring of fire" solar eclipse will transform the skies for parts of the Western U.S. on Saturday. Here's what you can expect in Southern California, plus when and how to watch the celestial event safely.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Our skies will be transformed Saturday morning during a rare "ring of fire" annular solar eclipse.

The eclipse will briefly dim the skies over parts of the western U.S. and Central and South America. As the moon lines up precisely between Earth and the sun, it will blot out all but the sun's outer rim. A bright, blazing border will appear around the moon for as much as five minutes, wowing skygazers along a narrow path stretching from Oregon to Brazil.

Eyewitness News spoke with NASA expert Anita Dey about the celestial event.

What is the "Ring of fire," and what can Southern Californians expect to see?

The path of annularity will be from Texas to Oregon, so people in that path are going to see the sun covered by the moon partially, Dey explained. So there is going to be this "ring of fire" where the sun normally is. You'll see the bright light of the sun somewhat obscured by the moon.

Los Angeles is not quite in the path - but pretty close, Dey said. So in L.A. you'll see a crescent sun, instead of a crescent moon, which is something most people are quite used to.

Timing of the eclipse

For three hours Saturday starting around 8 a.m., the sun will begin to be blocked by the moon during its orbit.

In California, we'll start seeing it shortly after 9 a.m. The view from our region will show the moon cover about 70% of the sun. This type of eclipse won't return to this part of the country until 2046!

How can we safely view the annular eclipse?

Dey emphasized that you should never ever look at the sun directly. If you want to observe the eclipse, you will need some solar viewing glasses or use an indirect viewing method.

Solar viewing glasses are available for purchase at popular retailers like Walmart, Amazon, Best Buy and others. They're also available at the Griffith Observatory, and you can also check if your local library is offering them for free.

One indirect method is using a pinhole camera, which can be naturally made from using the shadows of trees or using items from home.

Drew Tuma, a meteorologist with our San Francisco sister station ABC7 News, described an easy way to make a pinhole camera from home.

"All you need was a cereal box, a white piece of paper and some aluminum foil. So, once again, once you have your viewing device all done, you're going to want to put your back towards the sun, put your eye in one hole and watch as the sun goes through the other hole," Tuma said.

No eclipse viewing glasses? No problem. Here is NASA
No eclipse viewing glasses? No problem. Here is NASA's diagram for making a solar eclipse-viewable pinhole camera with a cereal box from home.

If you don't protect your eyes while viewing the eclipse, it could cause permanent vision damage. And that damage could be painless, so it's possible that you won't notice any type of sensation while the back of your eye is being damaged by looking directly at the eclipse, according to Dr. Hin Cheung, an optometrist with the Indiana University School of Optometry.

Looking directly at the solar eclipse can cause solar retinopathy. This may cause you to lose part of your vision, have distorted vision or develop a blind spot.

WATCH: How to protect your eyes during the eclipse

If you don't protect your eyes while viewing the 'Ring of fire' solar eclipse, it could cause permanent vision damage. Here are ways to protect yourself.

For more information on eye safety during an eclipse, visit nasa.gov.

There is another eclipse happening in April 2024. How will it be different from Saturday's event?

In April, there will have a total solar eclipse, and that path is going to be from Texas to Maine, Dey said. So people in that path will have complete darkness. The sun will be completely obscured by the moon, and there will be a moment where you can take off your glasses to observe that when the sun is completely dark. But you have to put your glasses right back on before the sun starts coming up, she emphasized.

For that eclipse, everybody in the contiguous 48 states will see something, though it might be just a nibble out of the sun, like Southern California might have, Dey said.

Will Saturday's eclipse impact the Southland's electric grid?

The solar eclipse will cause a large portion of the sun's rays to be obscured Saturday morning and may reduce the amount of solar generation produced in the state, according to Southern California Edison.

Southern California Edison released the following statement, in part, on Friday:

If there is a decrease in solar production, CAISO will balance the grid with available resources, including battery storage, thermal generation, hydroelectric generation and imports. SCE's team of meteorologists and energy reserve experts will also monitor conditions to make sure customers have reliable service.

You can find more information on SCE's preparations at this link: energized.edison.com.