Way Out West Texas: Ring of Fire

Published: Jul. 21, 2023 at 6:57 PM CDT
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FAR WEST TEXAS (KOSA) - The skies of West Texas are known for its beauty. Whether it’s the sunrises or sunsets, there is always something amazing to see when you look up. That will especially be true on October 14th this year, and April 8th, 2024, when Texas has a front row seat to two solar eclipses.

“The path of the eclipses, total or annular, are very narrow. You have to be in the right spot at the right time to see those,” said Joe Wheelock, the public program specialist at the McDonald Observatory.

Where is the “right spot” to view the eclipses?

The annular solar eclipse crosses the United States starting in Oregon at 7:13 a.m. CST and ending in Texas at 12:03 p.m. CST before continuing into Central America. However, Midland-Odessa is in its direct path.

“For the annular eclipse, the moon is basically a bit further away, so even though it goes in front of the sun, it doesn’t block it out completely. It blocks out almost the entire sun except for the very edge, giving you that ring of fire effect,” said Saul Rivera, the public program specialist at the McDonald Observatory.

For the total solar eclipse next April, in the U.S., totality will begin in Texas at 1:27 p.m. CST and end in Maine at 2:35 p.m. CST.

This time, Eagle Pass will see the longest duration of the eclipse in the U.S. at 4 minutes and 26 seconds. Meanwhile, the longest duration of the annular solar eclipse in the U.S. will be 4 minutes and 52 seconds at Padre Island, according to the Great American Eclipse.

Regardless of where you go to see these eclipses, knowing how to view them safely is important.

“There are special filters you can add onto a telescope so you can look at them safely,” River said. “The other common method is eclipse viewers. They are little glasses that have the same special film to be able to look at the sun without the risk of damaging anything.”

The McDonald Observatory along with the Abell-Hanger Foundation are providing free online training and resources to inform and educate people about the safety measures when viewing the eclipses.

Mark Palmer, the CEO of the Abell-Hanger Foundation said he hopes this can be a way to inspire the younger generation to go into the STEM field.

“We saw this as a really great opportunity to spark that interest. You never know what’s going to grab a child’s attention and make them head in a direction in their career that maybe they hadn’t considered before,” Palmer said.

Be sure to mark your calendars for the annular solar eclipse on Saturday, October 14 and the total solar eclipse on Monday, April 8, 2024.

Additional educational resources, workshops and videos about the eclipses can be found on the McDonald Observatory website.