Get Ready for an Annular Solar Eclipse

The rarest type of solar eclipse is going to occur in the U.S. in May. It occurs on Sunday, May 20. The path of the eclipse and timing are illustrated below:

click to enlarge

An annular eclipse is just like a total eclipse except it occurs when the moon is farther away from earth than usual. So, instead of a completely dark sun, you get a tiny yellow circle around the dark moon (see below).

We had a full annular eclipse visible from Wichita in 1994. The sky turned a very dark blue and the stars came out. The temperature dropped noticeably. You will have to have welder’s glass or a similar suitable viewing device.

I’m presenting this now, so if you’d like to see this rare event, you can make plans to go to the Southwest. Climatologically, the best area would be from New Mexico, west, where rain and thunderstorms are rare in late May. It will be visible from Albuquerque, the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park (easy to access from Las Vegas) then northwest to the California-Oregon border.

The band from ABQ to Zion is, statistically, the best area for viewing. Amtrak’s Southwest Chief is a great way to get to Flagstaff, Winslow, Kingman, the Grand Canyon, and (don’t forget) Winona.

Farther east, it is tornado season on May 20th and thunderstorms might block your view.

Personally, I’m one for two on solar eclipses.

For the Wichita ’94 eclipse we dedicated WeatherData’s new office in the Farm Credit Bank Building. We had a spectacular day!

Three years earlier, I took our family to the July, ’91 total solar eclipse in Hawaii. Being a meteorologist, I did careful research as to the best place to watch (the eclipse would take place at 8am). That was on a boat in the channel between Maui and Hawaii where the totality would be longest. Being on the leeward side of the mountain, statistically, should have given us the best chance of clear skies.

So, the Smith Tribe got up at 4am, got on the boat with the other astronomical adventurers and we watched it get completely dark — under a rainy overcast!

Everyone on the boat was very disappointed, and some were crying, at the lost opportunity. My family, like everyone else, was very disappointed and grumbling about having been awakened so early to see so little.

As we pulled into the docks, my son, Brandon, said to me, “Well, Dad, I had a good time.”

I gratefully replied, “THANK YOU, Brandon!”

He quickly added, “Not!”

There were numerous other fiascos during that family trip. I kept waiting for Harold Ramis to contact us wanting to buy the rights to the story.

My advice: If you take children, make sure you have a second memorably fun thing to do. So, if Mother Nature does not cooperate, expedition will not always be known as The Trip Where Dad Dragged Us to the Middle of Nowhere and We Didn’t See Anything!

I’ll wrap up this posting with, Take it away Lindsay Buckingham!

5 thoughts on “Get Ready for an Annular Solar Eclipse

  1. hello friends,
    The solar event will happen in the afternoon and its full effect will be visible along a narrow band through the southwest U.S. Places such as Medford, Oregon; Chico, California; Reno, Nevada; BAY AREA Astrological Society St. George, Utah; Albuquerque, New Mexico and Lubbock, Texas will witness the sun turn into a "luminous ring."


  2. Mike,

    Don't give up on seeing a total solar eclipse just yet because there are TWO of them coming to the continental U.S. in the next dozen years…

    The first one on Aug. 21, 2017, will cross 14 states from coast to coast and the path includes far NE Kansas (Leavenworth, Atchison, Maryville). Even better viewing will be available in Nebraska (Grand Island, Lincoln) and Missouri (northern KC metro, Columbia, Jefferson City, south STL metro). For more information and maps of the totality path visit

    Then on April 8, 2024, there will be another total eclipse originating in Mexico and visible on a path from Texas to New York.

    The two eclipse paths actually cross in far southern Illinois so residents of communities such as Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, and Paducah will get to see two solar eclipses in less than 7 years!


  3. I meant to say, "two TOTAL solar eclipses in less than 7 years," which is an extremely rare phenomenon at any single location.