On Saturday, Oct. 14, 2023, NOAA satellites observed an annular solar eclipse traverse parts of North, Central, and South America.
During a solar eclipse, the Moon crosses between the Earth and the Sun, casting a shadowy path as it moves. However, the Moon's orbit around the Earth is not a perfect circle; it's slightly elliptical. This means that the Moon's distance from Earth varies throughout its orbit.
When the Moon is near its apogee (the farthest point from Earth in its orbit), it appears smaller in the sky. Conversely, when it's closer to its perigee (the closest point to Earth), it appears larger.
During an annular solar eclipse, the Moon moves in front of the Sun at or near apogee. At this distance, it is not large enough from our perspective on Earth to completely cover the Sun. The result is an annular solar eclipse, where the edges of the solar disk peek out around the moon, creating a “ring of fire” phenomenon if viewed from within its shadow’s path.
This path began in Oregon in the United States around 9:13 a.m. PDT (12:13 p.m. EDT) and continued through parts of Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas (as well as small stretches of California and Colorado). It continued on its southeastern path through Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula and then central Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua, the Atlantic coast of Costa Rica, and Panama before crossing into South America where it passed through Columbia and northern Brazil before the ring of fire disappeared from the skies over the Atlantic Ocean at sunset.
NOAA’s GOES satellites viewed this eclipse from space, and were able to see the moon’s shadow moving along the Earth in near real-time thanks to the Advanced Baseline Imager instrument.
A different instrument called the Solar Ultraviolet Imager (SUVI), onboard GOES East, also captured the eclipse from a different perspective. It observed the Moon crossing in front of the Sun.
The VIIRS instrument onboard each of NOAA’s JPSS polar-orbiting satellites also captured the Moon’s shadow on Earth as it traveled across the Northern and Southern hemispheres during the eclipse.
Did you know?
An annular solar eclipse is different from a total solar eclipse. During a total solar eclipse, the Moon happens to be in just the right position and just at the right distance from Earth that it exactly covers the relative size of the Sun, darkening the sky.
As a result, the Sun’s outer atmosphere, called the corona, becomes visible as a halo of glowing plasma encircling the Moon.
There will be a total solar eclipse on Monday, April 8, 2024. It will be seen through parts of Mexico and the eastern U.S. and Canada.