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Solar eclipse party in the redwoods

5/20/2012

Eureka, CA -- On May 20th, Eureka will be the first major U.S. city to experience the nation’s first annular solar eclipse in three decades. You won’t be able to see it in the Bay Area. 

The southern and northern viewing boundaries of the eclipse shadow will be roughly from Garberville to a sliver of Southern Oregon. Anywhere outside that range will witness only a partial eclipse.

What exactly is an annular eclipse? It’s similar to a total one, but because of a quirk in the moon’s orbit, it won’t blot out the entire solar disk, leaving a thin circle of light around the sun, a so-called "ring of fire."

The center line of the shadow will go directly over Redwood National Park, home of the world’s tallest trees, which, weather permitting, will have excellent viewing locations. Clear skies will make the beaches great places to see the eclipse and then sunset. Should there be low-lying fog, eclipse watchers are encouraged to head for nearby vista points at higher elevations, such as the Redwood Creek Overlook, four miles east of the Lady Bird Johnson Grove on Bald Hills Road.

Elk Meadow Cabins in Orick, minutes from all the locations, is offering a special 20 percent discount a two-night stay for eclipse watchers.

The Chumayo Spa in Blue Lake (12 miles northeast of Eureka) has an eclipse special too. They are offering a  "Banish the Chill" when the sun disappears: free sauna with any spa service on Sunday.

Minutes east of Eureka, the Humboldt Astronomy Club will view the event from the Kneeland airport on Kneeland Mountain. The public is invited to join them (They have 100 eclipse glasses to share) and stay afterwards for some dark-sky observing that evening.

Fog or not, the city of Arcata is throwing a big eclips-o party and everyone is invited. The Solar Eclipse Block Festival starts at 3 PM at the Arcata Playhouse, housed in the historic creamery building at 1251 Ninth Street. There will be musical acts, performance art, refreshments and giant puppets.

How rare is it to view a total or annular solar eclipse? California last witnessed one of either in 1930 and won’t again until 2045. This particular annular eclipse shadow will start in Asia, race across the Pacific, head directly over the park and Humboldt County, then skirt across Nevada, the four corner states, and the panhandle of Texas before disappearing around sunset. 

For more about the eclipse, visit this NASA website.