Solar Eclipses Preclipses

They are coming our way! Yes, we are lucky, not one but two solar eclipses are going to grace our sky and minds – one this year (2023) and one next year (2024). And the fun-educational thing is they will be very different, showcasing the nature of our Moon’s orbit around Earth.

Nancy and I traveled to the Nashville area in 2017 to witness and capture that total solar eclipse. In 2013 I started asking people if they were excited that a total solar eclipse was going to occur in 2017, in the US! I received mostly blank stares and…huh? I was dismayed by the general lack of interest or awareness. I suppose it’s one of those things that doesn’t make it to folks radar until the weatherman starts hyping it.

I think the 2017 eclipse stirred enough interest that more people have been talking earlier about the 2024 total solar eclipse.

It’s also a factor in preparing for the total eclipse locally. It means more people have already planned a trip to spots along the path of totality and it means the event could be even bigger than in 2017.

Getting back to two eclipses…

The difference between an annular and a total solar eclipse has to do with the Moon’s distance from Earth. Our Moon orbits Earth in an elliptical, off- centered, and tilted plane. All of these conditions play a role in when, where, and the type of solar eclipse that occurs on Earth. Because of its elliptical and off-centered orbit the Moon will sometimes be just the right distance from us to fully block the Sun and produce a total solar eclipse. Sometimes however the Moon is farther away, and it does not fully block the Sun, leaving a ring (or annulus) of brilliant light – too brilliant to look at without protection. The ring/annulus of light is why this eclipse is called an annular eclipse. The ring of light is often called a Ring of Fire and is spectacular to view with solar viewing protection. The most convenient protection is solar viewing glasses. Just make sure to get them from a trusted supplier (the library, a science hobby shop, online astronomy supply retailers, etc.).

This year, on October 14th, we will have the opportunity to witness an Annular Solar Eclipse. New Braunfels is at the northeastern edge of this eclipse and most everyone there should be able to see it. Annularity will last longer further southwest, into San Antonio. Hondo is in the center path, so it and points southeast/northwest from Hondo will experience the longest view.

Next year (2024) on April 8, we will be treated to a total solar eclipse. New Braunfels will not be in the path of totality however. Points west and northwest such as Canyon Lake, Bulverde, Boerne etc. will see totality. Even much of the west side of San Antonio will experience totality.

More on these later.

What’s in the Sky?

February 27; 10pm; west: The Moon and Mars are really close. Betelgeuse and Aldebaran join in.

March 1; dust; west: Venus and Jupiter are very close