'Ring of fire' eclipse Thursday morning will be a partial eclipse for Maine

·3 min read

Jun. 9—The first solar eclipse of the year is set to take place Thursday morning and will be visible throughout the state for early risers.

The eclipse will be a sunrise event, with the moon passing between the Earth and sun, roughly between 5 and 6:30 a.m. It will not, however, be a total eclipse because the moon's distance from Earth will make it appear smaller than the sun, leaving behind a visible annulus or "ring of fire."

"Since the moon does not block the entire view of the sun, it will look like a dark disk on top of a larger, bright disk. This creates what looks like a ring of fire around the moon," NASA said on its website.

The entire event will last just over 90 minutes, but the period where the moon will line up directly with the sun is likely to last just four minutes.

Those in the Northeast, including Maine residents, won't get to see the "ring of fire" phenomenon because of its path but will instead see a partial eclipse where it looks like the moon has taken a bite out of the sun.

Shawn Laatch, director of the Versant Power Astronomy Center & Jordan Planetarium at the University of Maine, said the sun will be roughly 80 percent covered at the eclipse's peak in Maine, which is a significant partial eclipse.

"I would certainly encourage folks to get out and try to view this eclipse safely if they have the opportunity," he said.

Rob Burgess, president of the nonprofit Southern Maine Astromers, plans to join a group of watchers on Eastern Promenade in Portland.

"It's a pretty cool thing if you recognize that these are celestial bodies in motion," he said. "With so much of the night sky, you don't see this level of motion, but with an eclipse, motion is very evident."

Burgess said the best opportunity for viewing will be to start before sunrise and find a place with a clear view of the horizon facing northeast. The sun will rise at 4:59 a.m. on Thursday.

"The sun will rise above the horizon already partially eclipsed and then proceed for about a half hour toward the maximum amount," he said. "We expect to get to about 75 percent coverage of sun by the moon's disk and then the moon will drift across the sun and eventually leave the surface. The last point of contact will be about 6:30.

"The first half hour is probably going to be the most exciting because the sun will become increasingly eclipsed."

Both Burgess and Laatch cautioned viewers not to look directly at the eclipse without protection as it could damage their eyes.

"People can use solar filter glasses, or welders glasses if they are No. 12 or higher," Laatch said. "Or they can use pinhole projection, which is really easy to do."

Thursday's event might not be as dramatic or noteworthy as the most recent total solar eclipse that occurred in 2017. Burgess said he drove to Illinois for that to get the best possible view.

"It was spectacular," he said. "Just amazing."

Mainers won't have to wait that long for the next one, either. A total solar eclipse is set to take place in April 2024, Burgess said, and Maine is likely to be one of the best spots for viewing.