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Solar eclipse 2012: Viewing parties await 'ring of fire'

The eclipse's pathViewing parties are planned across California as the rare solar eclipse occurs Sunday evening.

Crowds were already arriving at the Griffith Observatory for a viewing party, with some setting up their own telescopes on the lawn area.

Griffith Observatory officials said people should get there early and plan ahead. Parking is limited, and authorities expect spaces on West Observatory Road and Western Canyon to fill up quickly; they also suggested that people park on East Observatory Road.

GRAPHIC: Busy Sunday in Los Angeles

"Visitors may want to be prepared for a long, uphill walk," the observatory said.

In the Redding area -- where the eclipse is supposed to be especially clear -- viewing parties are also planned.

"Redding was actually mentioned on NASA's website as one of the best places to see the eclipse," natural science educator Amber Davis of Turtle Bay Exploration Park told the Record-Searchlight.

The park plans educational and viewing events next to the landmark Sundial Bridge. Officials said some enthusiasts were coming from other parts of California for the view.

Sunday’s “ring” eclipse is the first of its kind to be visible from the continental United States since 1994.

Those in the direct path of the eclipse will see the moon nudge its way into the center of the sun, leaving a ring of fire visible around the moon's edge. Scientists call this an annular eclipse. ("Annulus" means "ring" in Latin.)

According to NASA, the eclipse will begin at sunrise local time in southern China, then pass over Hong Kong, Taipei and Tokyo. After entering California's view, the moon's shadow will block the sun's light along a course from Reno to the Grand Canyon in Arizona to Albuquerque to Lubbock, Texas.

From a vantage point in Southern California, the moon will block about 85% of the sun's diameter, leaving behind a skinny C-shaped crescent sliver.

Monsoonal conditions could pose problems with cloud cover in Asia, and the U.S. Northwest, South and Midwest, but the weather is expected to be generally clear for most of California and the southwestern United States.

The last time Angelenos saw such an extensive solar eclipse was in 1992, but an approaching winter rainstorm ruined the view for many, including a crowd of 15,000 people at Griffith Observatory. The next time Los Angeles will see a solar eclipse this impressive will be in 2071, according to NASA expert Espenak.

FULL COVERAGE: Solar eclipse 2012

Experts warn viewers not to look directly at the sun during the eclipse, since that could cause permanent damage to eyesight. Regular sunglasses will not protect the eyes, even if you wear more than one pair.

The simplest way to see it is to project it onto the ground in front of you by crisscrossing your fingers waffle-style to the sunlight, according to NASA.

You can also punch a nail through a piece of cardboard, and then angle it to project the sun's light onto another piece of cardboard. "When the sun goes into eclipse, you'll see a crescent," said Griffith Observatory director Ed Krupp. The smaller the hole, the sharper the image.

Another easy option is to use a hand mirror to reflect the light of the sun onto a wall or some other surface, Krupp said. NASA also suggests using binoculars to project the eclipse onto a white card.

Location Start Partial Eclipse Start Annular Eclipse Max Eclipse End Annular Eclipse End Partial Eclipse % of sun diameter covered
Hong Kong (AM) 5:08 6:06 6:08 6:10 7:16 94%
Taipei (AM) 5:07 6:10 6:10 6:11 7:23 94%
Tokyo (AM) 6:19 7:32 7:34 7:37 9:02 97%
Crescent City, CA (PM) 5:07 6:23 6:26 6:28 7:35 97%
Albuquerque, N.M. 6:29 7:33 7:35 7:38 8:36 97%
Redding, CA 5:11 6:26 6:28 6:30 7:36 96%
Zion National Park 6:23 7:31 7:34 7:36 8:37 96%
Lubbock, Texas 7:31 8:33 8:36 8:38 9:34 96%
Lake Tahoe 5:15 6:29 6:31 6:32 7:37 95%
Chico 5:13 6:28 6:30 6:31 7:37 95%
Eureka 5:09 6:25 6:27 6:29 7:36 95%
Grand Canyon 5:25 6:33 6:35 6:37 7:38 94%
Yosemite Village 5:18   6:33   7:39 92%
Sacramento 5:15   6:31   7:38 92%
Las Vegas 5:23   6:35   7:39 92%
San Francisco 5:15   6:32   7:39 90%
Monterey 5:18   6:34   7:41 88%
Palm Springs 5:26   6:38   7:42 86%
Lancaster 5:24   6:37   7:42 86%
Downtown L.A. 5:24   6:38   7:42 85%
Malibu 5:24   6:38   7:42 85%
Griffith Observatory 5:24   6:38   7:42 85%
Burbank 5:24   6:38   7:42 85%
Woodland Hills 5:24   6:38   7:42 85%
Chatsworth 5:24   6:37   7:42 85%
Santa Monica 5:24   6:38   7:42 85%
Alhambra 5:24   6:38   7:42 85%
Arcadia 5:24   6:38   7:42 85%
Rowland Heights 5:25   6:38   7:42 85%
Ontario 5:25   6:38   7:42 85%
Anaheim 5:25   6:38   7:42 85%
Oxnard 5:25   6:38   7:42 85%
Long Beach 5:25   6:38   7:42 84%
Redondo Beach 5:25   6:38   7:42 84%
Palos Verdes 5:25   6:38   7:42 84%
Huntington Beach 5:25   6:38   7:42 84%
San Diego 5:27   6:39   7:43 83%


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-- Rong-Gong Lin II

Image: Eclipse graphic. Credit: Griffith Observatory, used with permission

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