While many in the U.S. will be recovering from Thanksgiving day meals and looking for ways to stretch their holiday shopping dollars at (hopefully local) retailers’ “Black Friday” sales, the face of the Sun will grow dark as the Moon passes in front of it, casting its shadow over the Earth. But it won’t be visible to American shoppers – or very many people at all, in fact… this eclipse will be hiding in the southern skies above Antarctica!
On Friday, November 25, an annular eclipse will occur, reaching a maximum coverage at 06:20:17 UT of magnitude .905. It will be the largest – and last – partial eclipse of the year.
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But its visibility will be limited to the most southern latitudes… outside of the Antarctic continent, only New Zealand, Tasmania and parts of South Africa will have any visibility of the event.
An annular eclipse is similar to a total eclipse, except that the Moon is at a further distance from Earth in its orbit and so does not completely cover the disc of the Sun. Instead a bright ring of sunlight remains visible around the Moon’s silhouette, preventing total darkness.
The next solar eclipse will occur on May 20, 2012. It will also be annular, and even darker than the Black Friday one at a magnitude of .944. It will be visible from China, Japan, the Pacific and Western U.S.
Following that, the main event of 2012 would have to be a total eclipse on November 13, which will be visible from Australia, New Zealand and South America (greatest totality will occur over the South Pacific.) Several sites have already set up group travel events to witness it!
Feeling left out on cosmic occultations? Not to worry… there will be a very visible total lunar eclipse on the night of December 10, 2011 (weather permitting, of course) to viewers across the Northern Hemisphere. The Moon will pass into Earth’s shadow, turning gradually darker in the night sky until it is colored a deep rusty red. It’s a wonderful event to watch, even if not as grandiose as a total eclipse of the Sun.
(Plus it’s completely safe to look at, as opposed to solar eclipses which should never be directly observed without safety lenses or some projection device… for the same reasons that you shouldn’t stare at the Sun normally.)