Partial solar eclipse will bring crescent sunrise to Northeast U.S. on Thursday
Don't be alarmed if a chunk of the sun is missing as it rises Thursday morning.
A partial solar eclipse is slated to bring a crescent sunrise to more than 75 million Americans. In Canada and other northern latitudes, a rare "ring of fire" solar eclipse will darken skies.
Solar eclipses occur when the moon partially or fully blocks the sun.
Weather could pose a challenge for some, particularly in the Mid-Atlantic and Carolinas, where clouds and rain could spoil the show. But in New England and parts of the Northeast, the prospect of a special sunrise appears more likely.
What makes Thursday morning's eclipse special is that it's a sunrise eclipse, presenting dramatic photo opportunities as the eclipsed sun poses over the ocean or as a backdrop for city skylines. As one goes farther north, there will be a deeper eclipse, with more of the sun obscured by the moon.
In Washington, D.C., 55% of the sun will be blocked, with maximum eclipse coming just five minutes after sunrise at 5:42 a.m. Buffalo, N.Y., will see 78% coverage centered right around sunrise.
You may recall that a coast-to-coast swath of the United States enjoyed a total solar eclipse Aug. 21, 2017, for the first time since the 1970s. The next total solar eclipse to occur over the Lower 48 will take place April 8, 2024.
For this event, the moon won't appear large enough in the sky to fully cover the sun. We call this an annular eclipse, when the moon becomes fully immersed in the sun and yields a glowing ring of light.
With an annular eclipse there is no path of totality. Instead, the ring of fire will be visible in rural parts of Ontario and extreme northern Quebec. A swath of Greenland and Russia will experience this as well, but there are no major cities in the path in those regions.
Stateside, clouds could threaten in some locations, particularly along and south of a moisture boundary that will stall near the New York City Tri-State Area.
Low pressure over the Tennessee Valley interacting with a front draped from the Appalachians to the Mid-Atlantic will bring an extensive area of low- to mid-level clouds and rain showers to that region. While lighter, more isolated showers pepper southern parts of the Midwest and Ohio Valley, the heaviest rainfall prospects exist in southern Virginia, the Cumberland Plateau of Tennessee and most of North Carolina.
In the nation's capital, it'll be a nail-biter. The cloud cover may have a sharp northern edge, making places like Philadelphia more primed to potentially catch a view. Washington D.C. and Baltimore, however, might be right on the fringe, diminishing the odds of clear skies. Getting a peek doesn't seem impossible, though.
Closer to New York City, a push of dry air from the north should scour out any clouds that may get in the way, allowing for prime viewing.
New England has a decent shot of mostly clear skies, too. Some high-altitude cirrus clouds leftover from thunderstorms over the Northern Plains may pose minor issues as they surf the jet stream eastward. Predicting where they'll end up is a challenge, but central New England in particular may not be able to dodge them.
Additional low clouds could pose some concerns in southern Ontario and perhaps northern North Dakota, with some spillover into Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Clouds aren't necessarily a dealbreaker. Some photographers welcome them during partial solar eclipses, because if the clouds are thin enough, it filters some of the sun's harmful rays and makes for interesting and visually compelling shots.
It's important to remember that, as this is not a total solar eclipse, eye protection is required the entire time. If you have leftover eclipse glasses from 2017, Thursday offers a great opportunity to put them to use - after inspecting them to ensure they are free of pinholes, scratches or imperfections.
As a general rule of thumb, it's a good idea to never look at the sun. The next full annular ring of fire eclipse will be visible from the contiguous United States on Oct. 14, 2023.
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