Rare Kind Of Eclipse Will Be Visible From Small Ut

Last modified on Oct 17, 2013

2-22-2012-    KANARRAVILLE -- Even though only 400 people live in the town, Kanarravile (10 miles south of Cedar City) will need toilets for about 5000. Why? Because the town is ground zero for a very rare astronomical event.

It's called the "Ring of Fire," a special kind of eclipse of the Sun. The Moon is a bit further from Earth, so it doesn't quite cover the Sun. Southern Utah will be in the sweet spot just before sunset on May 20.

"Oh, it's, it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," said amateur astronomer Mike Saemisch.

No one in Kanarraville can predict how many will come. But 5,000 is their planning number. The mayor, Keith Williams, says it's a privilege to host a solar eclipse.

"We haven't had a lot of things happen here, you know. So, yeah, I think it's good even though it's overwhelming to, I think, people in town," he said.

In a so-called "annular" eclipse, the Moon is slightly farther away, according to Seth Jarvis of Clark Planetarium. "That means as the moon moves in front of the sun, it's not quite big enough to completely cover the sun," Jarvis said.

Viewed from the right spot, the Moon will almost, but not quite, cover the Sun and leave a dazzling ring of fire.

"It won't be the sort of thing where the stars come out," Jarvis said. "But it will get noticeably dark."

As the Moon's shadow glides across the Pacific, the ring of fire will be visible over a long stretch of ocean. As it hits land, the eclipse track runs from Northern California to Albuquerque. Four spots in Utah will be easy to drive to. A long stretch of Highway 56, I-15 at Kanarraville, and Highway 89, at Glendale and east of Kanab.

"In the area I think it will draw 5,000, because we've heard from people from Toronto," said Mayor Williams. "We've heard from people in Salt Lake, gonna be busloads here."

Before you even think about looking at the eclipse, you need safety sunglasses. Eye protection is absolutely necessary because even at the peak of the eclipse, if you look straight at it, you could easily blind yourself.

The view will be pretty good from Salt Lake City, too. The Moon will block most of the Sun, but off center, so there's no ring of fire. In Southern Utah, Mike Saemisch plans to snowmobile to the top of Brian Head Peak.

"You won't have another chance to see it," Saemisch said. "Amateur astronomer: And with our normally clear weather, and great views, it should be very spectacular."

Of course, all this presumes the Sun is shining that day. KSL's Kevin Eubank says the odds of a mostly cloudy sky in May are something like one-in-four.

John Hollenhorst, Reporter -KSL.com

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