Why 'ring of fire' solar eclipse on Oct. 14 has scientists excited (video)

NASA scientists are excited about the upcoming "ring of fire" solar eclipse.

The annular solar eclipse will first touch down in the U.S. in Oregon at 9:13 a.m. PDT (12:13 p.m. EDT and 1613 GMT) on Saturday (Oct. 14), while the partial eclipse stage will hit the U.S. West Coast at 11:03 EDT (1503 GMT). And scientists are counting down the hours to these milestones.

"There's a lot of Earth science that can occur, because you're getting this large drop in flux (radiation) coming from the sun," NASA postdoctoral researcher and solar astrophysicist Trevor Knuth told Space.com. 

The population of charged particles like electrons can therefore change, which the agency plans to check out with sounding rockets sent into the upper atmosphere, he added.

Related: How long will the annular solar eclipse last on Oct. 14?

The moon obscures the sun during an annular eclipse

An annular eclipse will be visible on Oct. 14, 2023. (Image credit: NASA/Bill Dunford)

Seven other U.S. states will experience the solar eclipse, along with the Gulf of Mexico and parts of Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia and Brazil. NASA has a helpful interactive map to help you select the best viewing locations.

Reminder: NEVER look directly at the sun. Instead, use solar eclipse glasses or a pinhole camera. All equipment like cameras, telescopes and binoculars must have solar filters in front of their lenses. Here's how to observe the sun safely.

Coverage of the eclipse is also available online if you can't get to the event in person. Watch the eclipse live here on Space.com courtesy of NASA — the livestream will start at 11:30 a.m. EDT (1530 GMT). And you can keep up to date with the latest eclipse coverage with our annular eclipse live blog.

Solar eclipses happen when the moon comes between the sun and Earth. The moon's orbit around Earth is elliptical rather than circular, which explains why some eclipses are annular:  During an annular eclipse, the moon is relatively far from Earth and therefore too small in the sky to cover the entire disk of the sun. A thin sliver of our star is therefore visible, creating a "ring of fire." 

The path of annularity is pretty narrow on Saturday, at just 125 miles (200 kilometers) wide. If you're slightly outside the track, you will see a partial solar eclipse, in which the moon appears to take a bite out of the sun.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
LocationLocal time of 'ring of fire'Duration of 'ring of fire'
Oregon Dunes, Oregon9:15 a.m. PDT4 minutes, 29 seconds
Crater Lake National Park, Oregon9:17 a.m. PDT4 minutes, 19 seconds
Great Basin National Park, Nevada9:24 a.m. PDT3 minutes, 46 seconds
Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah10:27 a.m. MDT2 minutes, 31 seconds
Canyonlands National Park, Utah10:29 a.m. MDT2 minutes, 24 seconds
Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado10:31 a.m. MDT2 minutes, 57 seconds
Albuquerque, New Mexico10:34 a.m. MDT4 minutes, 42 seconds
Corpus Christi, Texas11:55 a.m. CDT4 minutes, 52 seconds
Edzná Maya archaeological site, Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico11:23 a.m. CST4 minutes, 32 seconds

If you capture a photo of the annular eclipse and would like to share it with Space.com's readers, send your photo(s), comments, and your name and location to spacephotos@space.com. 

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for Space.com for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: https://qoto.org/@howellspace