MGA Faculty Q&A: The October 14 Solar Eclipse

Author: News Bureau
Posted: Wednesday, September 20, 2023 12:00 AM
Categories: School of Health and Natural Sciences | Events- Students | Pressroom | Faculty/Staff

Macon, GA

An annular solar eclipse photographed on May 20, 2012, by Bill Dunford/NASA.

Heads up, astronomy enthusiasts. On Saturday, Oct. 14, an annular solar eclipse will cross North, Central, and South America. It will be visible in Georgia.

An annular solar eclipse happens when the moon passes between the sun and Earth, but when it is at or near its farthest point from Earth. Because the moon is farther away from Earth, it appears smaller than the sun and does not completely cover the sun. As a result, the moon appears as a dark disk on top of a larger, bright disk, creating what looks like a ring around the moon. (

Here again is Middle Georgia State University’s go-to astronomy guy, Dr. Lawrence Camarota of the Department of Natural Sciences, to tell us more.

When and where can we see this eclipse?

On October 14, the eclipse will occur in Georgia roughly between noon and 2 p.m., with the peak occurring around 1 to 1:15 p.m. In Georgia, the occlusion will be between 50 percent and 60 percent at the peak. This is enough that the sun will take on a distinctly crescent shape. This eclipse will be visible in most of North America, Central America, and South America. The maximal eclipse will occur from Oregon to southern Texas, plus parts of Panama, Colombia and Brazil.

If you are on MGA’s Macon Campus that day, the Natural Sciences Network student organization will be holding an eclipse viewing in front of the Recreation and Wellness Center. Members will have eclipse glasses and pinhole viewers available to borrow, and they will be available to answer questions.

The most important thing to remember when viewing an eclipse is DO NOT LOOK DIRECTLY AT THE SUN WITH YOUR BARE EYES. The sun is bright enough to burn your retina, and being partially covered does not change that; in fact the partial eclipse can be even more dangerous as our eyes adjust to gather more light in the slightly dimmer conditions. If you want to see the eclipse, you can either look directly with a light filter, or by an indirect projection. If you want to look directly at the eclipse, you will need eclipse glasses. They can be fairly cheap, but make sure that they are explicitly eclipse glasses. Do not trust any DIY/life hack that you read about online for direct viewing. Even with eclipse glasses, you do not want to stare at the sun; look at it for a few seconds, then look away for a minute.

Indirect viewing is fairly simple; any small hole will create a projection of the eclipse. One easy way to see this is to take two index cards, and punch a small hole in one. Hold the cards so that the one with the hole is a couple inches above the other card. The spot of light from the hole will be shaped like the eclipse. This phenomenon will also tend to occur naturally; for example the spots of light in tree shadows will take on the shape of the eclipse. There are also more complicated viewers that you can make that will produce a stronger image, and for indirect viewing they are safe enough to make yourself, as long as you, again, DO NOT LOOK DIRECTLY AT THE SUN WITH YOUR BARE EYES.

Let’s back up a minute. What is an eclipse?

An eclipse, in general, is when one object passes in front of another object, blocking the light from the first object. Astronomically, this is used to discover binary star systems and exoplanets. Here on Earth, the two main kinds of eclipse are solar eclipses and lunar eclipses. A lunar eclipse is when the Earth blocks sunlight from reaching the moon. The eclipse coming up will be a solar eclipse, which means that it is the moon that is blocking light from the sun. To be even more specific, it is an annular eclipse, which means that the moon appears slightly smaller than the sun. This will result in an 'annulus', sometimes called a Ring of Fire, to appear where the eclipse is maximum. In Georgia, it will be a partial eclipse, meaning that the moon will partially cover the sun.

Why are eclipses so rare?

In order for an eclipse to occur at all, the Earth, Moon, and Sun all have to line up in a row. Even though the Moon orbits the Earth, the plane of its orbit does not quite line up with the ecliptic, which is the path the Sun appears to take across the sky. An eclipse will only occur when the Moon and the Sun are both very near one of the points where these two planes intersect, called the nodes of conjunction. This coincidence occurs approximately twice per year. However, eclipses seem rarer because not everybody can see every eclipse. Lunar eclipses are only visible to roughly 1/3 to 1/2 the surface of the Earth. Partial solar eclipses are typically visible to less than 15% of the Earths surface, and total solar eclipses are visible to much less than 1% of the Earth surface.

When is the next eclipse?

Solar eclipses occur roughly twice per year, and the next one will be on April 8, 2024. By coincidence, it will also be visible in most of North America, with an occlusion of 70 percent to 80 percent in Georgia. This eclipse will be a total eclipse in a path from central Texas up to the New England/Canada border. If you are interested in seeing this eclipse in totality you will want to start making travel arrangements now; hotels and flights are already significantly more expensive for those days, and the prices will not be coming down.

Dr. Lawrence Camarota graduated with a B.S. in physics and a B.S. in aerospace engineering from the University of Florida. He earned a Ph.D. in physics with a focus on astronomy from the University of Arizona. He is a member of the American Association of Physics Teachers, the Royal Astronomical Society, and the Friends Society. His areas of interest are astrophysics, cosmology, electronics, and wavelets.


Eclipse path:

Pinhole viewer:

Box viewer:

Ring of Fire: