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Where will you be for the “Ring of Fire” Solar Eclipse May 2012?

May 20, 2012

Today, Sunday May 20, something special is going on around the world: an annular eclipse of the sun by the moon. That’s where the new moon passes in front of the sun, blocking the light from getting to earth.

Some eclipses are “full” which means the moon blocks the light the most and produces an eery twilight during day time. An annular eclipse produces a “ring of fire” for those who are fortunate to be in its path. This is the first eclipse in six years to be visible from the United States–the next one that will be this spectacular will be in 2071 according to NASA.

The eclipse of May 20, 2012 starts at dawn on Monday May 21 in China, traces a line going north through Japan, arcs just below the Aleutian Islands in the Pacific where it will be midday and at its greatest, then crosses into north America near the border between Oregon and California. It passes through Redding on its way to Lake Tahoe, through Reno to Pyramid Lake where thousands gather on traditional Shoshone Pauite Land at Symbiosis, slides over the Grand Canyon in Arizona, descends toward Albuquerque New Mexico and finally sets in Lubbock Texas.

For those not directly in its path, the event is still potentially dramatic; the closer you are, the more apparent the eclipse. This eclipse favors people in the population dense west coast most of whom will see it from about 5pm until sunset between 7 and 8pm as it passes over or near many of the larger metropolitan regions of the west including Sacramento, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Phoenix. These cities will experience 80% or more coverage of the sun; at its greatest, the moon will cover 96% of the sun–leaving the “ring of fire.”

Check out this interactive google map that shows the best places to be for the eclipse. It also tells you how much coverage and the times to watch.

So what can you see? And how do you see it? And where should you go to see the eclipse?

Whatever you do, no matter how tempting it is, even if it is sunset, don’t look directly at the sun because that will damage your eyes. Instead,

1. Criss cross your fingers and you will be able to see the moon taking a bite out of the sun. You will achieve the effect in this photo by Stephan Heinsius from APOD.

2. You can also cut a hole in cardboard and see the moon eating the sun.

3. If you know any welders, borrow their #14 helmet–that’s sun safe.

4. Use a mirror to reflect the sun onto another surface to watch the moon pass in front of the sun.

5. If there’s an observatory nearby, go there or search for a gathering of amateur astronomers.

6. Watch the sun on water.

We had planned on being in the White Mountains near the ancient bristlecones and the Nevada border or perhaps hung out at hot springs in the region but it looks like we will be in our local mountains, possibly at Pine Mountain or the Ojai Foundation which is hosting a mythological round table discussion and labyrinth walk during the eclipse. It is foggy on the coast so we will NOT be at home even though I have heard that people will be gathering on the pier.

Regardless, you should be some place for the eclipse that feels sacred to you, and take a moment to honor the sacred, the divine that is around us, animating all life on this earth.

Eclipses come in pairs; that means on Monday June 4, there will be a lunar eclipse. For those of us on the west coast, it will start around 2am and last until the still colored moon sets around 6am.

Eclipses are a time of change, of a shift. What seemed to be clear is obscured, and what was obscured comes to light. Obstacles and opportunities appear where none had been.

According to, “On May 20, Gemini will take control of the cosmic reigns as the Sun floats out of Taurus and into Gemini, while the Moon, already in the sign of the twins, immediately moves in for a Solar Eclipse.” Gemini, ruled by Mercury, is the sign of communication which means that “how you relate to and associate with others will come to the forefront now. Gemini also likes to do and know as much as possible, without worrying too much about going very deep into any particular subject. That makes this an ideal time to multitask, but also to think outside the box, since you’ll have so many random ideas floating through your head at any given moment…A Solar Eclipse generally has some lesson it wants you to learn, and since the focus here is on Gemini, your life lesson will have something to do with the traits mentioned above. Pay special attention to areas of your life that involve communication, learning and trying new things.”

The time of the greatest shift is the 2-3 days before and after an eclipse. During this time, Hindus around the world pray to Ganesh, who leaves his home in Mount Kailash to walk the earth before and after each eclipse.

Read about Lord Ganesh’s home in Mount Kailash here.

One year, during the days around an eclipse, Lord Ganesh even visited me. Read about Lord Ganesh’s visit here.

On another occasion, a few years ago, I was at my wit’s end. We had tried everything to deal with our “unneighborly neighbors”–and so I turned to ritual on the night of a sunset lunar eclipse. We used out energy, set our intentions to protect my home and family and generate love, and by the next moon, the worst “unneighborly neighbor” was in escrow to move.

Read more about that eclipse and the rituals we performed here.

More about the top photo from APOD:

A Partial Eclipse Over Manila Bay
Credit & Copyright: Armando Lee (Astron. League Philippines), F. Naelga Jr., 100 Hours of Astronomy (IYA2009) Explanation: What’s happened to the setting Sun? An eclipse! In early 2009, the Moon eclipsed part of the Sun as visible from parts of Africa, Australia, and Asia. In particular the above image, taken from the Mall of Asia seawall, caught a partially eclipsed Sun setting over Manila Bay in the Philippines. Piers are visible in silhouette in the foreground. Eclipse chasers and well placed sky enthusiasts captured many other interesting and artistic images of the year’s only annular solar eclipse, including movies, eclipse shadow arrays, and rings of fire. Today parts of the Sun again will become briefly blocked by the Moon, again visible to some as a partial eclipse of a setting Sun. A small swath of Earth, however, will be exposed to the unusual ring of fire effect when the Moon is completely surrounded by the glowing light of the slightly larger Sun.

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