Vantage point possible for rare celestial event

Mesa Verde may offer view of solar eclipse

The sun and the moon will be the stars Sunday in a rare celestial dance.

It’s an annular solar eclipse, which occurs when the moon moves directly in front of the sun. But because the moon will be at its apogee – furthest point from the Earth – the observer will see a dark center circled by a ring of fire.

A total – blackout – solar eclipse occurs when the moon is in the same position relative to the sun, but is closer to Earth so that complete darkness ensues.

The eclipse Sunday may be seen at Mesa Verde National Park, weather permitting. The full effect, peaking about 7:30 p.m., will be seen only briefly – 1 minute to 1.5 minutes – because Mesa Verde is on the edge of the trajectory, spokeswoman Betty Lieurance said.

The public can observe the eclipse at the Navajo Canyon overlook. Interpretive ranger Tim Stubbs will present a program from 6 to 8:30 p.m.

A solar telescope will be available and special viewing glasses will be provided.

The park will not waive the $10 entrance fee, Lieurance said. Navajo Canyon is reached by taking Mesa Top Loop Road.

The best vantage point for Four Corners residents to see the eclipse would be Albuquerque, which will get the full effect of the eclipse for about 4 minutes around 7:30 p.m.

The entire heavenly show will be visible in Albuquerque from about 6:30 to 8 p.m.

No matter from where the eclipse is viewed, the observer must never look at the sun directly in order to avoid severe eye damage or blindness. Sun glasses are no sufficient protection.

About 94 percent of the sun’s light will be blocked.

Sunday’s annular eclipse is the first since May 10, 1994, which was seen from Tucson to Maine.

The next annular eclipse on May 10, 2013, won’t be visible in the Four Corners.