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Solar eclipse 2012: Fever is spreading to view historic event

May 20, 2012 |  6:21 am


Solar eclipse fever was spreading Sunday.

Special solar eclipse glasses have sold out at the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles.

The city-run observatory is one of the few local places known to sell eclipse glasses, but its stock of 2,500 pairs ran out late Friday night, spokeswoman Susa Szotyori said.

"The glasses are completely gone," Szotyori said. She said the observatory's gift shop had fully expected to have plenty of glasses, which sold for $2.99 each, available through the Sunday eclipse. "They're equally stunned as everyone," she said.

One group in Japan is broadcasting live its ascent of Mt. Fuji to photograph the once-in-a-generation event.

Mt. Fuji, the highest point in Japan, is directly under the full path of the annular eclipse -- one in which the moon blots out all but the sun's outer edge, blocking all sunlight except for a "ring of fire." ("Annular" means "ring" in Latin.)

Solar_eclipse_altazThe partial solar eclipse targeting L.A., beginning Sunday at 5:24 p.m. and reaching its maximum shadow at 6:38 p.m., will cover up about 85% of the sun's diameter, leaving behind a very skinny C-shaped sun.

That's because Sunday's eclipse is the closest Los Angeles will be to a full eclipse for the next 59 years, according to calculations by NASA eclipse expert Fred Espenak.

Best time to watch Sunday's eclipse

And as a plus, weather conditions are promising for much of Southern California, although partly cloudy conditions are a risk at the coast on Sunday evening.

In 1992, when Los Angeles was supposed to be directly hit with a full "ring of fire" eclipse at sunset, many groaned when the clouds of an arriving winter storm marred the view for many expectant fans, including a crowd of 15,000 that had gathered at the Griffith Observatory.

For Los Angeles, there will be three other major partial solar eclipses between Sunday and 2071.

In  2023, 78% of the sun’s diameter will be blocked by the moon. The next two major shows will see the moon shadowing over 83% of the sun's diameter in 2044 and 2045.The 2071 eclipse will cover up 91% of the sun's diameter.

But for those who missed the full "ring of fire" eclipse in Los Angeles in 1992, that will be the last such eclipse to hit our area in our lifetime. The next one to hit Los Angeles will be in 2121. (A "ring" eclipse, or "annular" eclipse, is one where the moon blocks so much of the sun's center that all that is left visible is a "ring of fire" on the sun's outer edge. "Annular" means ring in Latin.)

If you care to travel several states over, you’re in luck for something better than a "ring" eclipse -– a total eclipse that will come to the continental United States in 2017.

Total eclipses are far more exciting because they will shroud the land in an eerie midday twilight. The Aug. 21, 2017 total eclipse will glide through Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, northeastern Kansas, Missouri, southern Illinois, western Kentucky, Tennessee, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and South Carolina.

Espenak has done similar eclipse calculations for other places: Chicago, New York City, Washington, Berlin, London, Paris, Rome, and Sydney.

Tweet your plans and photos to @latimes or @lanow with the hashtag #LATeclipse, or share your eclipse experience on our Facebook page. Let us know how your vantage point is. We'll be compiling the best reader moments from the evening.


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Rare 'ring of fire' solar eclipse comes to California this weekend

-- Rong-Gong Lin II

Photo: Alan Davenport, director of the University of Maine planetarium, photographs the sunrise solar eclipse with a 1250-mm mirror telescope from the top of Copeland Hill in Holden, Maine, on Aug. 11, 1999. At the time this picture was made the solar disc was 80 percent occluded by the moon. Credit: Bob DeLong / Bangor Daily News via Associated Press