Thursday, April 24, 2014

National Parks Prepare For May 20, 2012 Solar Eclipse

National parks from California to New Mexico will offer some of the best eclipse-viewing opportunities on May 20th when the first solar eclipse viewable in the U.S. in the last 18 years darkens the sky before sunset.

“This will be spectacular,” said Director Jarvis. “There are 33 national parks positioned for a great view of the eclipse and six parks - Redwoods National Park and Lassen Volcanic National Park, both in California; Zion National Park in Utah, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area in Arizona and Canyon De Chelly National Monument and Petroglyph National Monument, both in New Mexico – are at the center of the eclipse path.”

In addition to eclipse viewing, national park rangers and astronomers from the National Park Service, local astronomy clubs and NASA will converge on several national parks with programs and hands-on eclipse activities for park visitors.

Astronomers like Dr. Tyler Nordgren, who is also a National Park Service volunteer, call this eclipse “annular.” At its peak, the eclipse will resemble a bulls eye, with a thin ring of the sun visible around the Moon. The Moon would need to be closer to Earth for a total eclipse, which blocks out the sun completely and casts a large shadow upon Earth.

Because the Sun won’t be completely blocked, it is essential for viewers to use special solar glasses or other protection to view this event.

Weather permitting of course, visitors at the 33 national parks along the eclipse path will get the full effect: the disc of the moon within the disc of the Sun.

Another 125 national parks, most of them west of the Mississippi River and including national parks in Alaska, will offer a partial eclipse view. “Think of Pac Man taking a bite out of the sun,” Jarvis said describing the partial eclipse. “That ‘bite’ will take out 55 to 80 percent of the disc of the sun depending on where you are and that’s still a very special experience.”

“Even though we won’t have a total eclipse,” said Nordgren, “the moon will be in position to block out 96 percent of the sun’s light at the eclipse maximum, leaving what we call a ‘ring of fire’ around the disc of the moon.”

“Whether during the day or night, national parks are great places to enjoy the motions of the cosmos and take in the latest sky show,” says Chad Moore, who heads the NPS astronomy corps. “Our rangers encourage visitors to spend time beneath the sky and ponder those really big questions about the universe and our place therein.”

Please visit for the latest eclipse information, which includes safety tips, maps of the eclipse path and national parks, a complete list of national parks where the eclipse will be visible, and national parks that will feature public programs about the eclipse.

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