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National parks from California to New Mexico rev up for eclipse

May 16, 2012|By Mary Forgione | Los Angeles Times Daily Travel & Deal blogger
  • Like many national parks in the West, the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area on the California-Arizona border will host special events for Sunday's annular solar eclipse.
Like many national parks in the West, the Glen Canyon National Recreation… (National Park Service )

Fade to ... almost dark? An annular solar eclipse will be visible in part of the West on Sunday hours before sunset when the moon will cover up all but a sliver of the sun. Inside what's called the annular path, a "ring of fire" will appear as the moon passes in front of the sun.

Just about every national park in the West is hosting some type of viewing party or astronomy fest Sunday to mark the heavenly occasion. (Check out all the national park events.)

The roughly 200-mile-wide path begins in southern China and sweeps east across southern Japan, the Pacific Ocean, touches land again roughly around Redding, Calif., then continues to central Nevada, southern Utah, northern Arizona, New Mexico and the Texas Panhandle, according to NASA's website.

"We're just off the center line and will see about 81% coverage [of the sun]," says spokesman Kelly Carroll of Nevada's Great Basin National Park. The visitor center in Baker, Nev., will have 10 telescopes in place starting at 3 p.m. Sunday that will also be transmitting live video of the event to a screen. The annular eclipse begins there at 6:30 p.m. Pacific time.

Eclipse-watchers at Great Basin and anywhere else must use solar-safe viewing glasses (sunglasses won't do) to prevent eye damage, Carroll said. You may purchase the viewers at the visitor center for a few dollars, he said.

Redwood National Park in the Crescent City/Eureka area will be in the path when the annular eclipse begins at 6:24 p.m. Pacific time. Best viewing opportunities are at the beaches; if there's fog, folks should head to higher points such as Redwood Creek and Klamath River overlooks. The Astronomers of Humboldt are hosting a picnic party at Kneeland Airport starting at 4:30 p.m. and there's a Solar Eclipse Block Festival starting at 3 p.m. in Arcata.

So what happens outside the path? Most of the West, including Los Angeles, the local mountains and the eastern deserts, won't be able to see the fiery ring, but will be able to witness a pretty cool partial eclipse of the sun, provided skies are clear.

Joshua Tree National Park will have telescopes with special filters set up to watch the event. Rangers will offer presentations about the eclipse starting at 4:40 p.m. with the partial eclipse starting at 5:26 p.m. In the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, the eclipse is expected to start at 5:24 p.m.

Griffith Observatory in the hills above Los Angeles will provide eclipse viewing from 5:24 to 7:42 p.m. The observatory suggests taking a shuttle for 50 cents each way from the Sunset/Vermont Red Line station to avoid traffic from the eclipse event and an event at the Greek Theatre.

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