People living in South America and the southern and western parts of Africa may want to look up at the sky on Sunday, as a “ring of fire” is set to make an appearance.
This natural phenomenon is officially known as an annular eclipse. It happens when the moon moves in between the sun and the Earth, but is too far to totally block the sun like it normally would during a solar eclipse, The New York Times reports.
C. Alex Young, a solar astrophysicist from NASA, says,
Because you have this thin little ring around the edge of the moon where the sun pokes out, it gives it that ring of fire effect.
Young explains that the since the moon’s orbit is elliptical, it is farther away from the Earth at some points. Annular eclipses happen when the moon is at or near its farthest distance, which is called apogee.
The countries with the best chances of seeing this ring of fire are Chile and Argentina, and also Angola, Zambia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo in Africa. They are along the path of annularity – the area where the moon’s shadow is cast on Earth. This distance varies from 18 miles to 55 miles in width as the moon moves, so those outside the path will still be able to see a partial solar eclipse.
The annular eclipse on Sunday is set to begin over parts of the Pacific Ocean, and will quickly move to Chile at around 9:10 a.m., local time, before it moves to Argentina. Anyone watching the sky in Argentina will see around 97% of the sun covered by the moon for one minute, Young says.
After that, the eclipse will cross the South Atlantic into Africa, ending in the Democratic Republic of Congo before the sun sets.
For those not in these countries, the Slooh Community Observatory will have a live stream beginning at 7:00 a.m. Eastern time.