ANNULAR SOLAR ECLIPSE: Something strange is about to happen to sunbeams in the southern hemisphere. On Sunday, Feb. 26th, the Moon will pass in front of the sun, covering as much as 99% of the solar disk. It’s an annular solar eclipse, shown here in an animation from ShadowandSubstance.com:
Annular eclipses occur when the Moon passes dead center in front of the sun, but does not completely cover it. At maximum eclipse, an intense “ring of fire” surrounds the mountainous limb of the Moon.
The narrow path of annularity snakes across five countries: Chile and Argentina in South America; Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Zambia in Africa. People in those countries can see the ring of fire for almost a minute and a half. Outside that path, the eclipse will be partial. This means the sun will turn into a crescent—a slender one near the path of annularity and a fatter one away from it. Caution: Always use safe solar filters to observe the sun.
Observers in the eclipse zone are encouraged to look down as well–for instance, at the sun-dappled ground beneath leafy trees. The sight of a thousand crescent-shaped sunbeams swaying back and forth on a grassy lawn or sidewalk is unforgettable.