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After the Supermoon: 'Ring of Fire' Solar Eclipse on Display in Western U.S. May 20

Did you catch a view of Saturday's Supermoon?

Why it was cool:
• It was a perigee moon, a full-moon phase that brings the moon more than 15,000 miles closer to earth than during other phases.
• It appeared around 30% brighter and 14% larger than customary.

If you missed it, scroll through a boffo online collection of Supermoon photographs assembled by The Atlantic, or watch the following report below that aired Sunday on NBC Nightly News. (Sorry about the lead-in ad.) While the moon is beginning to wane, it is expected to still put on an impressive display at moonrise over the next few nights.

Up next for fans of celestial events: An "annular" solar eclipse, which creates a ring-of-fire appearance for the sun as the moon blocks all but a corona-like portion of the sun's perimeter. In the United States, this May 20 eclipse will be most visible in the southwest.

This explanation from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Canada, Calif., offers details about the May 20 event:

As reported at Earthsky and in the National Parks Blog, 125 parks and monuments will offer above-average viewing perspectives to observe the ring-of-fire effect, 6 that will offer a viewing angle that will show the moon almost perfectly centered in front of the sun: Zion, Redwood, Lassen, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and 2 national monuments, Canyon de Chelly and Petroglyph (near Albuquerque).

Several parks are hosting eclipse festivals, many in association with astronomy clubs. The 12th annual Bryce Canyon Astronomy Festival runs May 17-20 and culminates with the eclipse. Check out a PDF of the park's festival brochure. Sounds like a great time.

Other astronomy events planned at national park units in 2012:

• Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area: University of Tennessee Evening Program & Stargazing, May 26, June 23, and Aug. 18.
• Great Basin National Park: Transit of the Planet Venus program, June 5, 3rd Annual Astronomy Festival, June 14–16.
• Grand Canyon National Park: 22nd Annual Star Party, both South and North Rims, June 16–23.
• Glacier National Park: Logan Pass Star Party, July 20 and Aug. 17.
• Yellowstone National Park: Stars Over Yellowstone, June 22–23, July 20–21 and Aug. 17–18.
• Acadia National Park: 4th Annual Night Sky Festival on Sept. 13–17.

Important note: Viewing an eclipse requires many precautions to ensure safety. Never look directly at an eclipse without proper eye protection. All sunglasses are inadequate and unsafe! Seek out specific eclipse-viewing eye protection. Do not view an eclipse through binoculars, telescopes or cameras unless they are equipped with solar filters specifically designed for this purpose.

Photo below: NASA.

Posted on at 5:04 PM

Tagged: astronomy, national parks, solar eclipse and supermoon

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