Today – February 26, 2017 – the new moon will take dead aim on the sun, crossing directly in front of it. The moon was at apogee, or farthest from Earth for the month, on February 18, however. So the moon is still too far from Earth to cover the sun completely. Thus the February 26 eclipse – first of two solar eclipses in 2017 – is not total. It is an annular – or ring of fire – eclipse of the sun. This annular eclipse is visible from in Earth’s Southern Hemisphere, along a very narrow path (in red on the diagram below) that starts over the South Pacific Ocean and then crosses South America, the South Atlantic Ocean and ends in Africa.
It’s only from there that the annulus – or ring – of sunshine will be seen to encircle the new moon silhouette.
A much larger swath of the world can watch a partial solar eclipse to the north and south of this annular eclipse path.
Remember to use eye protection if you’re in a position to watch this eclipse! At no time will the sky grow dark; at no time will it be safe to view the eclipse with the eye alone. An annular eclipse, in fact, is essentially a partial eclipse, albeit a particularly photogenic one.
The video below, from Colin Legg and Geoff Sims, captures the sunrise annular solar eclipse from three locations in the Pilbara, Western Australia, May 10, 2013.
For your convenience, we give the times for the February 26 solar eclipse in local time for Coyhaique, Chile, and Likasi, Congo. Click here for links to sites giving eclipse times for numerous localities around the world.
February 26, 2017:
Coyhaique, Chile (Chile Summer Time)
Partial solar eclipse begins: 9:23 a.m. local time
Annular solar eclipse begins: 10:35:54 a.m.
Maximum eclipse: 10:36:20 a.m.
Annular solar eclipse ends: 10:36:46 a.m.
Partial solar eclipse ends: 11:56 a.m.
Duration: 2 hours 33 minutes
Likasi, Congo (Lumbumbashi Time)
Partial solar eclipse begins: 5:29 p.m. local time
Annular solar eclipse begins: 6:30:11 p.m.
Maximum eclipse: 6:30:49 p.m.
Annular solar eclipse ends: 6:31:27 p.m.
Sunset: 6:35 p.m.
Partial solar eclipse ends: 7:27 p.m.
Duration: 1 hour 58 minutes
Want more? Click here for sites giving eclipse times.
The path of the antumbral shadow
During an annular eclipse of the sun, the moon’s umbra (dark, cone-shaped shadow) never reaches the Earth’s surface. The shadow extending beyond the umbra is called the antumbra. As seen from the section of Earth within the antumbra, the moon is directly in front of the sun and an annulus – ring – of sunshine surrounds the new moon. The B in the diagram below illustrates an annular eclipse.
We provide a more detailed map of the February 26 annular eclipse below. The annular eclipse in red starts at sunrise (at left, over the Pacific Ocean) and ends at sunset (at right, over Africa). Midway between, the greatest eclipse occurs over the South Atlantic Ocean at solar noon. On a worldwide scale, the annular eclipse from start to finish lasts for about 3 and 1/4 hours. But from any point along the path of the antumbral shadow, the maximum duration is only 1 minute and 22 seconds. The duration is near a maximum just after sunrise or before sunset; at the greatest eclipse, annularity lasts the minimum 44 seconds.
Along the path of the annular eclipse, just after sunrise or before sunset, the moon is farther away and smaller to the eye. At the beginning and ending stages of the annular eclipse, the more distant moon covers less than 98% of the sun’s diameter. Yet the path width is greatest at these times, spanning some 90 or more kilometers.
Midway along the annular eclipse path, at the greatest eclipse, the moon’s umbra comes closest to the Earth’s surface, with the moon then covering more than 99% of the sun’s diameter. At this point, however, the path of the antumbral shadow is only 31 kilometers wide. Surprisingly, perhaps, the path width of the antumbra is the least where the moon’s umbra comes closest to the Earth’s surface.
If the moon were a little bit closer, it would result in a rare hybrid solar eclipse: part annular and part total. The solar eclipse on April 8, 2005 serves as a prime example of a hybrid eclipse, whereby the path of the central eclipse starts out as annular and finishes up as annular, yet the in-between portion of the eclipse path showcases a total solar eclipse. Much less often, a hybrid eclipse can be annular at only the beginning or the end of the eclipse path.
Long-lasting annular eclipses
The path of the 2017 February 26 annular eclipse is rather narrow and the duration is rather short-lived at any point along the eclipse path. That’s because the moon is too close to Earth to allow for a lengthy annular eclipse on February 26, 2017.
The longest annular eclipses occur when the moon is near apogee (greatest distance from Earth) and the Earth is near perihelion (closest point to the sun). Given favorable circumstances, an annular eclipse can last for over 12 minutes. The last time this happened was during the annular eclipse of December 24, 1973. It looks like we won’t have another annular eclipse lasting 12 minutes again for centuries to come.
By the way, the longest annular eclipse of the 21st century took place on January 15, 2010, lasting 11 minutes and 8 seconds.
These sites give the eclipse times in Universal Time, so you must convert from Universal Time to your local time. Click here to find out how.
Bottom line: The annular eclipse of the sun on February 26, 2017 takes place in the Southern Hemisphere, along a very narrow path that runs through South America and Africa.
Bruce McClure has served as lead writer for EarthSky's popular Tonight pages since 2004. He's a sundial aficionado, whose love for the heavens has taken him to Lake Titicaca in Bolivia and sailing in the North Atlantic, where he earned his celestial navigation certificate through the School of Ocean Sailing and Navigation. He also writes and hosts public astronomy programs and planetarium programs in and around his home in upstate New York.