We Missed “The Ring Of Fire.”

Total Eclipse
Satellite View "Ring Of Fire" Around Eclipsed Sun | Photo by European Space Agency

“The Ring of Fire” I am referring to isn’t the song written by June Carter Cash and Merle Kilgore and made famous by her husband Johnny Cash in 1963 nor the “Ring of Fire” composed of 452 volcanoes surrounding the basin of the Pacific Ocean.

Total Eclipse
Satellite View “Ring Of Fire” Around Eclipsed Sun | Photo by European Space Agency’s Proba-2 Satellite

This “Ring of Fire” is the appearance of the sun’s corona when the moon moves between the Earth and the Sun producing a total solar eclipse.

Three things occurred on Friday March 20th: The Vernal Equinox occurred at 3:45 PM PDT beginning the Spring season. There was a total eclipse of the sun and there was a super moon at the same time. Did you see the eclipse? Do you know anyone who did? Me neither. That’s because it wasn’t visible anywhere in the United States.

A solar eclipse as defined in Wikipedia occurs when “the Moon passes between the Earth and the Sun, thereby totally or partially obscuring the image of the Sun from a viewer on Earth.” The total eclipse was visible for the longest time, 2 minutes and 40 seconds, off the coast of the Faroe Islands, an archipelago between the Norwegian Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean and Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic Ocean. The eclipse was seen in Europe, where the cloud cover allowed, and the next total solar eclipse to be seen there won’t be until August 12, 2026.

Watching Eclipse
Protective Glasses Worn In The UK | Photo by Rob Stothard/Getty

In the UK the eclipse was covered by clouds in some areas, particularly London, while others had a spectacular view. Even the Duke of York complained about the dense cloud cover over Buckingham Palace. Thousands of people all over Europe did get to witness the eclipse and were in awe.

Total Eclipse Path
Path Of Total Solar Eclipse | Image by timeanddate.com

Back to the Pacific Northwest where there was no chance to see any part of the eclipse. It started on the other side of the earth at 12:41 AM PDT, totality was at 2:45 AM PDT, and it ended at 4:50 AM PDT. Sunrise for Eugene on March 20th was 7:16 AM PDT so even if the skies were clear here there would have been no chance to see a solar eclipse well before our sunrise.

Since we missed seeing the total eclipse here is a video from Space Weather.com that shows it as a time lapse movie. The next total solar eclipse that will be visible in the US and particularly the Pacific Northwest won’t be until August 21, 2017.

Seasons, Vernal Equinox | Image by astrobob.areavoices.com

Earlier I mentioned that two other events occurred on March 20, 2015. That day was also the Vernal Equinox at 3:45 PM PDT which ends the season of Winter and begins the season of Spring. It is explained by the position of planet Earth in relationship to the Sun.

“Supermoon” | Image by www.kuriositas.com

The third occurrence is the super moon. What’s that? A super moon is defined as the time when the moon is in perigee. That means when once per month the moon is at its closest point to Earth and when on the horizon looks much larger than normal. There was one problem above and beyond the cloud cover that could obscure your view. That was the fact that it was the new moon when the the sphere is not visible from Earth.

So we ended up with one out of three. The Vernal Equinox did begin at 3:45 PM PDT on Friday March 20th and there was nothing visual to mark that event. The two visual events (total solar eclipse and super moon) were not visible so we had to rely on pictures or videos from other locations around the world to at least let us get a peek at the solar eclipse. It looks like we’ll just have to wait for the next one and hope for the best.

Let me know what you would like me to talk about or explain. You can comment below or email me at: [email protected]

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