- The 2012 annular solar eclipse will partially block the sun from view, leaving a bright ring of sunlight.
- On May 20, the eclipse will be viewable across several U.S. states, the Pacific Ocean, Japan and China.
In days gone by the event often filled people with fear and dread.
To see the sun, which reliably shone day after day, disappear from view as though devoured by some great monster or at the hands of a disgruntled deity would have sent any observer into panic.
Fortunately, today we understand what's happening when the sun disappears from view and thankfully don't resort to human sacrifice to bring it back!
A solar eclipse has to be one of the most amazing natural displays and they happen just a few times each year. Because of the conditions that cause the eclipse you need to be in very specific locations on Earth to see them, unlike the lunar eclipses that are visible over half the Earth at a time.
These quite surreal events occur due to very specific alignments of the Earth, moon and sun. If the Earth lies between the sun and moon then it will block sunlight from reaching the moon and we see a lunar eclipse or "eclipse of the moon." If, on the other hand, the moon is between the Earth and sun, then sunlight is blocked from a very small patch of the Earth -- this is a solar eclipse or "eclipse of the sun."