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| Space on May 16, 2012

Watch May 2012 solar eclipse at a National Park

Want to see the solar eclipse on May 20, 2012? National parks in the United States are gearing up for the event.

National parks from California to New Mexico are inviting people to watch either the partial or the annular eclipse of the sun on May 20, 2012. This eclipse is the first solar eclipse of any kind in the mainland U.S. (not including Hawaii and Alaska) in the 21st century (2001-2100). Plus the May 20, 2012 eclipse is the first time in 18 years that the moon will cross directly in front of the sun as seen from U.S. shores. A National Park near you wants to help you view it.

More about the May 2012 annular eclipse – what it is, when, how and where to see it, safe viewing: here

Image credit: National Parks Service

Jonathan B. Jarvis is National Park Service Director. He said:

This will be spectacular. There are 33 national parks positioned for a great view of the eclipse and six parks – Redwoods National Park and Lassen Volcanic National Park, both in California; Zion National Park in Utah, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area in Arizona and Canyon De Chelly National Monument and Petroglyph National Monument, both in New Mexico – are at the center of the eclipse path.

View from space: US national parks

Image credit: National Parks Service

The eclipse on May 20 is an annular – or ring – eclipse. At its peak, for those standing on the central line of the eclipse – the eclipse will resemble a bulls-eye, with a thin ring of the sun visible around the moon. The moon would need to be closer to Earth for a total eclipse, which blocks out the sun completely and casts a large shadow upon Earth.

Because the sun won’t be completely blocked, it is essential for viewers to use special solar glasses or other protection to view this event.

Weather permitting of course, visitors at the 33 national parks along the eclipse path will get the full effect: the disk of the moon within the disk of the sun at mid-eclipse.

Annular or ring eclipse seen in Bangui, Central African Republic on January 15, 2010. Image via Tino Kreutzer and Wikimedia Commons.

Another 125 national parks, most of them west of the Mississippi River and including national parks in Alaska, will offer a partial eclipse view. Jarvis described the partial eclipse:

Think of Pac Man taking a bite out of the sun. That bite will take out 55 to 80 percent of the disc of the sun depending on where you are and that’s still a very special experience.

In addition to eclipse viewing, national park rangers and astronomers from the National Park Service, local astronomy clubs and NASA will converge on several national parks with programs and hands-on eclipse activities for park visitors.

There’s eclipse information that includes safety tips, maps of the eclipse path and national parks, a complete list of national parks where the eclipse will be visible as well as the national parks that will feature public programs about the eclipse, here.

Annular eclipse of the sun – China to Texas – on May 20 or 21

Photo credit: Brice Canyon. NPS/Kevin Poe and Ron Warner