The Amateur Astronomers Group and the New Mexico Museum of Space History are teaming up on the grounds of the museum to safely witness the 2012 annular eclipse. This event is free and open to the public beginning at 6:30 pm on Sunday, May 20, 2012. Dubbed the “Ring of Fire” eclipse, it has been 18 years since an annular eclipse was visible in this area.
Although this is not a total eclipse, it is still very important for viewers to wear special solar glasses or other protection to view the event. A limited number of safe solar glasses will be available at the museum for the public to use, regular sunglasses do not work for this type of viewing. If you are unable to attend the museum event and would still like to see the eclipse, one of the simplest ways is to find a semi-shady spot under a tree and watch the circles of sunlight falling through the leaves. When the Sun goes annular, you’ll see bright rings on the ground.
Museum Education Director Dave Dooling also recommends a pinhole camera. “With a box, aluminum foil and a sheet of white paper, you can easily construct this simple pinhole camera,” said Dooling. “Keep in mind that the length of the box is important, the longer the box, the bigger the pinhole image will be,” he said. To construct the pinhole camera, cut a hole in the center of one end of the box, cover the hole with foil, and then poke a small hole in the foil with a pin. Then cut a viewing hole in the side of the box. Put a piece of white paper inside the box near the viewing portal. After that, simply point the end of the box with the pinhole towards the Sun.
“Do not look through the pinhole at the Sun. If you look at the Sun, your eye-lens will concentrate the Sun's light and focus it to a very small spot on the back of your retina. This will cause permanent eye damage or blindness. Additionally, there are no pain sensors back there so you won't even know it's happening,” said Dooling.
A SOLAR ECLIPSE OCCURS when the path of the Moon crosses the line of sight between the Earth and the Sun. While the Moon orbits the Earth approximately once per month, the Moon’s orbit is tilted by 5 degrees so the Moon passes either above or below the line of sight. A solar eclipse happens somewhere on the Earth about twice a year. The last solar eclipse viewable in New Mexico occurred in 1994.
For more information contact Cathy Harper at (575) 437-2840 ext. 41153 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org