Perhaps you remember that way back in October I was 83% excited for the “Ring of Fire” partial annular eclipse that was visible from Sacramento. Nearly 200 of you came out to view that eclipse with us at Robert Matsui Park.

Well, guess what? We’ve got another partial eclipse coming on April 8. And while we’ll only see 34% of the Sun obscured by the Moon on April 8, I won’t say that I’m only 34% excited about this eclipse. Let’s face it, Sacramento won’t see a total eclipse until February 18, 2110. So, let’s get excited about the eclipses – partial though they may be – that we do get to see.

What can you expect to see from Sacramento on April 8? Beginning at 10:16 am, the Moon will begin to inch across the face of the Sun. At 11:16, the Moon will cover about a third of the Sun, the maximum obscuration we’ll see from Sac. Over the next hour, more and more of the Sun will become visible again, until the Moon has moved completely out of the picture. Here’s a nice, scrollable animation of our view.

Now, I hope that this goes without saying, but you absolutely need approved eclipse viewing glasses to view the Sun – do not try to look at the eclipse without them! And since this is happening on a Monday morning, we’re not planning a big to-do at the museum – but we will have approved eclipse-viewing glasses and some solar-viewing telescopes available (thank you Sacramento Valley Astronomical Society!) if you’d like to join us for the morning.

That covers what you’ll see. How about a little bit about why we’ll be seeing this?

A solar eclipse occurs when the Sun, Moon, and Earth line up so that the Moon blocks our view of the Sun. By a happy coincidence, the Sun and the Moon appear to be about the same size in the sky, so that when the Moon crosses in front of the Sun just right, some people on Earth get to see the Moon completely block out the disc of the Sun. The happy coincidence is that the Sun’s diameter is about 400 times that of the Moon, but the Sun also happens to be about 400 times farther away from Earth than the Moon. What luck!

Image credit: Jeff Rodgers

Now, keep in mind that we’re only going to see a partial eclipse here in Sacramento. Again, don’t get me wrong; getting to see any eclipse is special, and most of the world won’t see this one at all. To see the full totality, you’ll have to be in the path of the Moon’s umbra – the darkest part of the shadow cast by the Moon – which is a strip only 115 miles wide. (In case you were wondering, umbra is Latin for shadow and it’s the root of the word umbrella.) Outside of the path, you’ll see varying degrees of partial eclipse. The farther you are from the path of totality, the more partial the eclipse will look to you. I’ve highlighted the 35% obscuration line near Sacramento in the image below.

Image credit:

If you haven’t made travel and lodging plans for somewhere in the path of totality yet…good luck. Eclipse enthusiasts have been planning for this for years and I’m guessing every room along the path is spoken for. So, let’s enjoy the partial eclipse and exercise great patience as we wait for the next total eclipse in Sacramento, just 86 short years from now.

I’d encourage you to join us on the morning of the 8th at the museum to watch the eclipse unfold. But, since it’s a Monday morning and you’ll have to watch from work or school, we have eclipse-viewing glasses available for purchase in our shop.

Clear skies and happy partial eclipse on the 8th!

Jeff Rodgers