2012 Solar eclipse will be viewable in U.S., China, Japan [SCIENCE]

2012 Solar eclipse will be viewable in U.S., China, Japan

Sometime around May 20 and 21, the earth and its inhabitants will be spectators to a solar eclipse. It is said that such event is so rare that the United States hasn't experienced a solar eclipse in over 18 years -- almost two decades. 
Depending on where people are in the eclipse's path, some may be able to witness an annular eclipse in which the moon blocks out all but a ring of the sun's light.
Others will see the sun as a crescent, partially obscured by the moon, for a period of around four to five minutes.

The event will be the first time in 18 years that such an eclipse is visible from the continental United States, according to Fred Espenak, a longtime solar eclipse expert with NASA.

"What is unusual about this particular annular eclipse is that it goes over the western U.S.," Espenak told AFP.

"People always think that eclipses are extremely rare but there are at least two solar eclipses every year. Each of these annular eclipses covers a very small fraction of the Earth's surface."

The path of the annular eclipse will span "a 240 to 300 kilometer-wide (150-185 mile) track that traverses eastern Asia, the northern Pacific Ocean and the western United States," according to the U.S. space agency.

The eclipse begins at sunrise in southern China at 2206 GMT Sunday, which is early Monday local time, and swiftly travels eastward to the southern coast of Japan, NASA said.

"Tokyo lies 10 kilometers (6 miles) north of the central line. For the over 10 million residents within the metropolitan area, the annular phase will last five minutes beginning at 2232 GMT," said NASA.
Solar eclipse viewable in U.S., China, Japan

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