Annular Eclipse 2023 Event - TravelQuest
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Annular Eclipse 2023 Event

Eclipse Travel Guide

On October 14, 2023, an eclipse of the Sun will be visible from all of North and Central America and much of South America (except for the southern tip). Most observers across the Americas will see only a partial solar eclipse, as the Moon hides anywhere from a sliver of the Sun’s face to almost the entire solar disk. For more information about the different types of solar eclipses, visit our “Solar Eclipse Types” blog.

 

However, those eclipse watchers who are properly positioned along a narrow track slightly more than 100 miles (160 kilometers) wide will witness something extraordinary. For roughly 5 minutes at the mid-point of solar eclipse 2023, the Sun will appear to have a gaping hole in its midsection. The narrow track where this is visible is called the path of annularity, and the apparent ‘hole’ in the Sun is a visual effect caused by the Moon moving directly in front of the Sun.

Annular Solar Eclipse 2023: An Unusual Experience

What is unique about an annular eclipse? Annular solar eclipses occur when the new Moon passes directly across the Sun’s face. But unlike a total eclipse of the Sun, when the Moon completely covers the Sun for a brief time, during an annular eclipse the Moon never completely hides the solar disk. At mid-eclipse (called annularity), there is always a ring of brilliant sunlight surrounding the Moon. In fact, the word ‘annular’ derives from medieval Latin ‘annularis,’ which means ‘pertaining to a ring.’ During annularity, there is always a brilliant ring of sunlight surrounding the Moon’s dark silhouette. This odd appearance has led to annulars being called a “Ring of Fire” eclipse.

But why is it that during some solar eclipses the Moon completely covers the Sun, while at other times it doesn’t? It’s all about the changing apparent diameter or size of the Moon and Sun as seen from Earth. When the apparent size of the Moon in the sky is smaller than average, and the apparent size of the Sun is larger than average, the lunar disk can’t completely cover the solar disk, and at mid-eclipse, a “Ring of Fire” is the result.

The apparent sizes of the Sun and Moon also dictate how long annularity lasts. If the two are almost equal, annularity can occur for a second or less. At the other extreme, with the Moon at its smallest apparent diameter and the Sun at its largest, annularity of more than 12 minutes is possible. During the annular solar eclipse of 2023, the duration of annularity is near the middle of this range—5 minutes 17 seconds just off the southeastern coast of Nicaragua. For a more detailed explanation of annular eclipses, go to our blog “What is an Annular Eclipse?

If you’re planning to view this unusual sight, there is one important thing to keep in mind. Safety First! An annular eclipse of the Sun is similar to a total solar eclipse, but with a critical difference. The Moon never completely covers the Sun, even at mid-eclipse. This means that whether you’re inside or outside the path of annularity, you must always use safe solar filters or eclipse-viewing glasses when watching all aspects of the eclipse. Our blog, “How to Safely Watch a Solar Eclipse”, explains everything you need to know about safely observing an eclipse of the Sun.

An annular eclipse sequence, with the Moon moving across the Sun’s face from right to left. All photos were taken with a safe solar filter attached to the camera. (Photo by Rick Fienberg/TQ)

The 2023 Eclipse Path

Although a partial solar eclipse will be visible, weather permitting of course, across all of the Americas, seeing the annular phase of this 2023 solar eclipse is possible only within a very narrow path. Southwest of Eugene, Oregon, where the eclipse path first touches land, the track of annularity is 135 miles (220 kilometers) wide, and annularity lasts 4 minutes 35 seconds. As the eclipse proceeds from Oregon and Nevada through Utah, Arizona and Colorado at the Four Corners, New Mexico, and Texas, and then into Central America, the path narrows until it’s a mere 115 miles (185 km) wide just off the southeast coast of Nicaragua—the point of longest annularity at 5 minutes 17 seconds. After this, the central path widens as it moves through Panama, Columbia, and Brazil until the eclipse concludes in the Atlantic Ocean off the Brazilian coast.

If you are thinking of seeing this eclipse, but don’t live within the path of annularity, where might you go? Most eclipse chasers want to be where the weather prospects are most favorable. For this eclipse, that’s Utah, the Four Corners point where the states of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah meet, much of New Mexico, and northwestern Texas. For a detailed look at the weather prospects along the entire path, visit Jay Anderson’s Eclipsophile webpage.

One of the best places for viewing this eclipse is Albuquerque, New Mexico, where the centerline of annularity crosses the northern portion of the city. And if clouds happen to roll in on eclipse day, moving to another site along the path is relatively easy, because the city is located at the junction of Interstates 25 and 40. For this and other reasons, Albuquerque is TravelQuest’s designated observing destination for our New Mexico Annular Eclipse trip.

Just prior to the start and immediately after the end of annularity, watch for Baily’s Beads—spots of sunlight shining through deep valleys on the Moon’s limb. (Photo by Paul Deans/TQ)
Just prior to the start and immediately after the end of annularity, watch for Baily’s Beads—spots of sunlight shining through deep valleys on the Moon’s limb. (Photo by Paul Deans/TQ)
During an annular solar eclipse, it is never safe to remove your solar filters or eclipse-viewing glasses when looking at the Sun. (Photo by Cathrine Bryn/TQ)
During an annular solar eclipse, it is never safe to remove your solar filters or eclipse-viewing glasses when looking at the Sun. (Photo by Cathrine Bryn/TQ)

TravelQuest in New Mexico

For more than 25 years, TravelQuest has planned and operated unusual travel adventures for discerning journeyers from all corners of the globe. Our specialties are eclipse tours and astronomy-themed excursions. New Mexico’s spectacular desert landscapes and lively arts communities provide the backdrop to the state’s official nickname: “Land of Enchantment.” This is why we’ve chosen this spectacular corner of the Southwest for our 10-day trip that features the almost five-minute annular solar eclipse on October 14, 2023.

One of our most intriguing stops during our 2023 solar eclipse trip to New Mexico is Spaceport America. This is the world’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport and is home to Virgin Galactic. Their iconic Gateway to Space building is a signature feature of Spaceport America. We hope to have a guided tour of the facility, but that depends on the status of their ongoing operations. Nearby is White Sands National Monument, one of the world’s amazing natural wonders. And in the same area is Trinity Site, where the first atomic bomb was tested on July 16, 1945.

With TravelQuest’s focus on astronomy, a visit to the Very Large Array (VLA), one of the world’s premier radio observatories, is a priority. The observatory comprises 27 radio dishes, either clustered together in the center of what was once an ancient sea, or spread out across the Plains of San Agustin along their connecting railroad tracks to a span of 22.6 miles (36.4 kilometers). We’ll also drop in on Apache Point Observatory, home of several large telescopes, including the Astrophysical Research Consortium’s 3.5-meter scope. Nearby is the National Solar Observatory at Sacramento Peak. We’ll visit during the day, stay in the nearby village of Cloudcroft, and later have a nighttime, “after-hours” deep-sky observing session. And for an out-of-this-world experience, we’ll stop at the UFO Museum in Roswell. Whether or not you believe, it’s fun learning about the infamous “Roswell Incident.” Besides, where else but in the museum’s otherworldly gift shop can you find an alien bobblehead for your desk?

Perhaps you’re keen for even more Southwestern scenery and star-filled skies. If so, TravelQuest offers an eight-day add-on trip to Arizona (for additional cost). This optional post-eclipse tour includes visits to the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, the extraordinary Barring Meteor Crater, Kitt Peak National Observatory, and, of course, the Grand Canyon.

If this astronomy-themed excursion, capped off by an almost five-minute annular solar eclipse, sounds intriguing, why not contact TravelQuest to learn more about our October 2023 journey to the Land of Enchantment.

If you join TravelQuest for our 2023 annular eclipse tour, you’ll be able to take in the hot air balloon mass ascension during the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. (Photo by Kyle Hinkson)

Header image by Paul Deans/TQ

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