Hobbs is ground zero for Annular Eclipse Oct. 14
News-Sun Staff Report
While there are many areas that will have a partial eclipse of the sun during an annular eclipse on Oct. 14, Hobbs will be one of the few cities that will see the totality of the annular eclipse of the sun.
“Hobbs is on the center line of the annularity,” New Mexico Junior College Professor of Math/Physics/Engineering Joel A. Keranen said.
For an annular eclipse to occur, the moon must get in front of the sun, casting a shadow across a range that may be as long as 1,000 miles and as narrow as 100 miles.
The name “annular” comes from the Latin word for ring, “annulus,” Keranen said.
These eclipses are named for their darkest point, even if it only lasts only a short time. If the characteristic ring of fire is visible from even just one location, the whole eclipse is called an annular solar eclipse.
The difference between an annular and a total eclipse is the moon’s orbit varies slightly in its distance from Earth. If an eclipse occurs when the moon is at a farther point during its orbit, it will appear slightly smaller and not large enough to cover the sun completely.
In October, the moon will not be far enough away from the sun to appear to cover it, so during the four to five minutes when the eclipse is most spectacular, the moon will appear to have a “ring of fire” around it — and Hobbs will be a great place to observe the phenomenon. The total duration of the eclipse — the time it takes for the sun, moon, and earth to get into position and then move away again — can take several hours.
In Hobbs, the annular eclipse will begin at 9:17 a.m. and end at 12:18 p.m.
“It’ll be fairly dark. It’ll be similar to darkness to the one we had in 2017,” Kreanen said. “.”
Having the event right overhead, as the Oct. 14 eclipse will be, is a rare opportunity for students and teachers to explore an event they may never experience again.
Keranen is the captain of the Hobbs team for the Dynamic Eclipse Broadcast Initiative — a citizen-science research project designed to capture science-quality solar data — and will have a viewing area at NMJC near the Western Heritage Museum.
“That’s kind of the south parking lot of the museum area,” he said. “But, the DEB telescope, no one can touch that, because there’s going to be data collection going on with that. I will try to have another telescope people can look in.”
Hobbs being on the center line of the annularity also provides an opportunity to learn more about eclipse chasers — of which there will be many descending on Hobbs and Lea County.
Eclipse chasers, like storm chasers, travel to wherever an eclipse is supposed to be visible. They will be flocking to locations in the projected path.
People who want to observe solar eclipses of either type need to wear eclipse glasses because looking directly at the sun can cause irreparable damage to the eyes. Eclipse glasses will be readily available at several sources around town, or directions for making a pinhole telescope can be found online.
“They need solar glasses,” Keranen said. He also mentioned solar glasses are available at several retailers and the Hobbs Public Library had a number available for people. “I think the library is going to be giving out around 300.”
If someone doesn’t have solar glasses, Keranen said arc welding helmets will also work for viewing.
“Those will be perfect — they’ll make it nice and dark and easy to see,” Keranen said. “Because, when people strike an arc weld, it’s similar to that kind of bright sunlight.”
For those interested in photographing the eclipse, it is important to use specialized solar filters for cameras and telescopes. Attempting to photograph the eclipse without the proper equipment can lead to serious damage to both the camera and a person’s eyes.
“With solar filters, they’re good,” Keranen said.
And, lastly, Keranen said if you are under a tree, the leaves can act like a pinhole box, with the shadows on a flat surface under. But whatever way you view the eclipse, don’t look directly at the sun with the naked eye, he said.
The entire event will take about three hours, but it’s the brief totality — when all of the sun’s light is blocked (for up to six minutes, according to Timeanddate.com) — that’s the reason people want to experience it. And, it’s why they will be coming to Hobbs.
Totality gives viewers a chance to see the sun’s outer atmosphere — the corona — with the naked eye, which is normally lost in the sun’s glare.
On either side of totality, it’s possible to see beads of light streaming through the valleys of the moon, called Baily’s beads. The last Baily’s bead before totality begins creates a “diamond ring” effect for a split-second as the corona emerges.
Totality causes a deep twilight, with observers also experiencing a noticeable drop in temperature for about about 20 minutes, starting before totality. The temperature drop happens because solar radiation in the umbra — the path of totality — is reduced.
“It will drop. It will definitely go down some,” Keranen said. “If you remember in August of 2017, it dropped t 79 degrees, and normally it’s over 90 that time of year, so yes it will drop. … it’ll be a little cooler.”
Eclipses, whether total or partial have been a subject in many literary texts over the years, and the subject in several movies.
Anyone who has read “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” knows a solar eclipse is what saved the life of the protagonist. Before his enemies could light the fire with which to burn him at the stake, an eclipse began he claimed he could bring to a halt if they freed him.
Of course, they did free him, and nature took its course and the eclipse ended. Whether the eclipse was annular or total depended on how the moon, sun and Earth were aligned, and we are left to only wonder. But those in Hobbs and the surrounding areas can find out for themselves what it might have been like on Oct. 14.
“Don’t miss it,” Keranen said.