A major astronomical event is coming this weekend, and Marin is prime real estate for checking it out.
Fog permitting, astronomical neophytes and curious minds will have an opportunity to view an annular eclipse of the sun late Sunday afternoon, the first since 1994.
The moon will paritally block the sun on Sunday at around 5:10 p.m. with the maximum eclipse at 6:32 p.m., according to astronomer Jonathan Braidman at Oakland's Chabot Space and Science Center.
Since the moon is not quite large enough to completely block out the sun it leaves a ring, which according to Braidman, "doesn't happen very often." In fact, the next total solar eclipse will be in 2023 and the next annular eclipse will happen again in 2030 and then again in 2048, according to Braidman. The last annular eclipse was in 1994 but was not visible from the Bay Area.
During a total solar eclipse viewers can see the corona, or crown, of the sun while during Sunday's eclipse a thicker ring will be visible, but it will still be darker than usual. Braidman said there will be interesting weather effects, especially for nocturnal animals, and there may be some interesting colors visible in the atmosphere. The astronomer said that to have a solar eclipse, the moon, sun, earth have to line up with moon in the middle.
The Bay Area is too far south to see a total ring, but only two hours north and especially near Eureka or Redding the entire circle around the moon should be visible, Braidman said. If you're up for a road trip, the National Park Service says the best place to set up camp in NorCal is Redwoods National Park and Lassen Volcanic National Park.
The best way to look at the eclipse is to not look directly at it. Braidman warns that onlookers can do some serious eye damage. Viewers should use something like welder goggles, a pinhole camera or solar viewers, like those at Chabot's observation deck. Click here to learn how to easily create a safe but effective viewing device.
The best views will be in the westward direction, as the sun will be close to setting. In Marin, that means places like the Marin Headlands, Muir and Tennessee beaches and Point Reyes National Seashore could see a deluge of onlookers on Sunday. But anywhere in our area without mountains or tall buildings blocking the western skyline will suffice.
Other astronomical events viewable from the Bay Area in the coming weeks include a lunar eclipse on June 4. This is when the moon passes behind the Earth. The lunar eclipse will occur in the early morning between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m.
A once-in-a-lifetime event is also in the stars -- literally. The transit of Venus is expected on June 5 between 3 p.m. and 10 p.m. The entire seven-hour period is how long it takes for the planet Venus to pass in front of the sun. The next transit of the planet will be in 2117. Chabot will also have a viewing event for that rare occurrence.
In Marin, the National Park Service will be on Slacker Ridge in the Marin Headlands between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sunday with experts on hand to help photograph the annular solar eclipse. Check the video at right if you're looking for a soundtrack for the event.
--Bay City News Service contributed to this report.