Technically, this is a hybrid eclipse—part annular, when the moon’s shadow doesn’t quite reach the earth and you see a fiery ring around the dark moon—and part total, when the moon completely covers the face of the sun, letting the sun’s magnificent corona burst into view. But this eclipse will only be annular for the first few seconds. For the rest of its more than three-hour journey along a narrow path, it will be a total eclipse. A partial eclipse will be seen over a much wider area.
The Eclipse Path
At dawn—11:05 Universal Time (UT)—a little more than 600 miles (1000 km) east of Jacksonville, Florida, the annular eclipse will flirt with potential sky watchers for 4 seconds. About 10 seconds later, the moon’s shadow will extend all the way to the earth and the total eclipse will get underway. As the shadow speeds across the Atlantic, the path of totality will widen and the duration of totality will lengthen. The greatest eclipse will occur about 200 miles (330 km) southwest of Liberia at 12:47 UT. The duration of totality will be 1 minute and 39 seconds and the path will be 35 miles (57 km) wide. The eclipse will make landfall at Gabon at 13:51 UT where the maximum duration will be 1 minute and seven seconds. As the shadow sweeps across equatorial Africa, crossing the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, Kenya, and Ethiopia, the path will narrow and the duration of totality will be shorter. The eclipse will end in Somalia at sunset with totality lasting only 1 second.
The path of totality is shown in purple. Areas within the green lines will see a partial eclipse. Areas within the yellow lines will see only part of the eclipse because the sun is rising or setting.
Chances are, unfortunately, that it will be cloudy along most of the path of totality. See Jay Anderson’s website Eclipser, which provides detailed maps, climate information, and weather predictions for eclipse chasers, along with suggesting a few spots from which this eclipse might best be seen.
What It’s Like to Watch a Total Solar Eclipse
Of all the dramatic displays that nature treats us to, a total eclipse of the sun is the most awe-inspiring. It begins with a gradual darkening of the sky that progresses to an eerie gray. It’s strangely quiet, prompting people to speak just above a whisper as they watch a flat, black disk slide slowly across the sun. The moment when the last crescent of sunlight vanishes is unnerving, recalling ancient fears that an eclipse was signaling the end of the world. Then suddenly the sun’s corona bursts forth–a shimmering halo of light that seems to surround a black hole in the sky. This is the magic moment; this is why eclipse chasers are willing to travel to the ends of the earth. Then the moon moves on, uncovering a sliver of sunlight, and sky watchers cheer the sun’s return.
The Partial Eclipse
A partial eclipse—seen on either side of the path of totality where the moon doesn’t completely cover the sun—will favor eastern North America, northern South America, southern Europe, the Middle East, and most of Africa. To find out if a partial eclipse will be viewable from a particular location, try the Solar Eclipse Computer provided by the U.S. Naval Observatory. It will tell you the times (UT) and duration of the eclipse, what percentage of the sun’s face is obscured, and more. (For example, if you specified Jacksonville, Florida, you’d find that the eclipse will be in progress at sunrise, you‘ll see a partial eclipse for 22+ minutes, and the moon’s maximum coverage of the sun will be 89.4 percent.) This is a quick and easy tool to use for U. S. cities; for locations outside of the United States, you need to supply the latitude and longitude of your location.
Local circumstances and animations are provided for selected cities by the UK Hydrographic Office. This is an easier tool for cities outside the United States. East coast U. S. cities, which will see only part of the partial eclipse, are not included.
To convert from Universal Time to local time, you can use the World Clock Time Zone Converter. For “place to convert from,” choose UTC/GMT.