Mohawk Valley Astronomical Society

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Flowers and Rings

by Perry Pezzolanella

The Big Event has arrived: the total eclipse of the Sun on April 8, 2024. These events are rare in New York State; the last time totality touched the state was January 24, 1925, a little over 99 years ago, and the next one will not be until May 1, 2079. While total solar eclipses are rare during this millennium, annular eclipses will be more common owing to their wider paths across the Earth and a better chance of touching the state. Utica will experience six annular eclipses versus only two total solar eclipses. An annular eclipse occurs when the Moon is too small to completely cover the Sun and the result is a ring of sunlight, or the Ring of Fire. This was last observed in Utica and throughout a good portion of Upstate New York on May 10, 1994. It was a success with annularity lasting 5 minutes 50 seconds in Utica, clear skies, and no need to leave home. The last total eclipse of the Sun over Utica was June 16, 1806, and while it is not known if it was clear here, it has been a long wait and a still much longer wait ahead.

The following is a list of annular eclipses that will be visible in Utica during this millennium followed by a list of totalities visible somewhere within New York. This article is meant for the curious, because life is too short on the cosmic scale, except for possibly a few for the youngest readers to observe. Still, it is nice to imagine what some of these might look like from our unknown future world. The list of annular eclipses that Utica will experience may not appear impressive and witnessing them will be feast or famine for future generations:

•July 23, 2093 – Annularity arrives in Utica for the first time since May 10, 1994. It will be an early morning event with the partial phase beginning at 5:52 A.M. Annularity begins around 6:53 A.M. and ends around 6:56 A.M. with the entire eclipse over by 8:05 A.M. Annularity will last around 3 minutes 8 seconds but will vary with location as the centerline passes to the northwest. The Sun will be 88% eclipsed, similar to the 1994 event. The path of this eclipse closely follows the path of the 2024 total solar eclipse, but the path is much wider and Utica falls within it.

•March 26, 2267 – Another early morning event with annularity curving from Texas and across the South and up the East Coast into Greenland. The Sun will be a thick glowing ring at 86% covered around 9 A.M. and lasting 4 minutes 14 seconds.

•March 27, 2294 – Anyone alive during this era will be lucky with this annular eclipse occurring only 27 years later and higher up in the sky occurring near noon. The Sun will be 86% covered with annularity lasting an impressive 7 minutes 33 seconds! The path of annularity goes from Texas and curves up into the Ohio Valley and nearly covers all of New York State before heading out across the North Atlantic Ocean. The centerline passes very closely southeast of Utica over Richfield Springs.

•September 10, 2314 – MVAS take note! If anyone born at just the correct time and the weather cooperates, they will be able to experience three annular eclipses within 47 years without leaving Utica! The trifecta ends with this one being an evening event as annularity sweeps in from the Yukon, across Canada and the Great Lakes, and into New York, ending as the Sun sets off the New England coast. The ring of sunlight will be thinner with 93% of the Sun covered; therefore, annularity will not last as long, only 2 minutes 34 seconds with the centerline passing south near Norwich.

•September 22, 2750 – After the lucky trifecta of three golden rings of fire it takes 436 years until annularity finally returns to Utica (but two totalities will bridge that gap!). The path of annularity starts in Alaska and slices Canada diagonally crossing Lake Ontario with the centerline passing southwest of here over Tully and then directly over New York City. Annularity will last 4 minutes 13 seconds with the Sun 89% covered around 12:54 P.M.

•March 19, 2770 – There is hardly a 20-year wait until annularity returns. The path of annularity starts over Lake Erie with the centerline passing south of here near Norwich. Annularity will last 2 minutes 42 seconds with the Sun 92% eclipsed not long after sunrise. This is the final annular eclipse in Utica until after the year 3000.

The most interesting annularity in some of our lifetimes is a near miss for Utica on July 1, 2057. If only the Sun could stay up another half hour so a sunset Ring of Fire could be experienced. Unfortunately, annularity falls short of Utica, Syracuse, and Rochester, but a trip to Buffalo, Niagara Falls, or Toronto will fulfill that image. Imagine the CN Tower in Toronto surrounded by a blazing ring of sunlight!

The following is a list of total solar eclipses that will touch New York the rest of the millennium. It is a short list, but Utica gets in on two of them, so indeed the totality passing nearby next month is precious as they are so rare:

•May 1, 2079 – A spectacular sunrise total solar eclipse of the Sun begins near Scranton and Philadelphia and passes right over New York City, Boston, and Portland, Maine. Incredible photos might be possible with the eclipsed Sun and iconic landmarks such as the Empire State Building and the Portland Head Light, but will be quick with totality barely lasting two minutes as the shadow races towards Greenland. The closest for Utica will be Albany, which is on the northern edge, so an overnight trip to be near the centerline will be mandatory to catch this one at sunrise. Utica gets a repeat of 2024 with the Sun 99.5% eclipsed at 6:10 A.M. hardly 20 minutes after sunrise.

•October 26, 2144 – A beautiful total solar eclipse begins in the Yukon and crosses Canada and the Great Lakes into Toronto, western New York, and the Finger Lakes. It will be the first total solar eclipse for the Buffalo, Niagara Falls, and Rochester regions since 2024. Syracuse barely misses it and Utica once again has to settle for a sliver with 98.7% of the Sun eclipsed at 1:21 P.M. This will be a wonderful day trip for future MVAS members who will probably look back at our 2024 adventure and dig up this author’s articles.

•August 2, 2399 – Totality finally arrives in Utica after 593 years! No travel required unless you want to be on the centerline near Lake George where totality will last 5 minutes 10 seconds. Even though Utica is off the centerline as totality sweeps across Alaska, Canada, and into New York it still receives a generous 3 minutes 12 seconds of totality starting at 2:49 P.M. and ending at 2:52 P.M. It comes at a favorable time of year weather-wise, so hopefully it will be visible, but the wait for the next totality is much shorter.

•June 3, 2505 – The wait is only 106 years and Utica is in the crosshairs with the centerline about as close as it will get for perhaps thousands of years! The path of totality is almost identical to 2024 except that the centerline passes almost over the Turning Stone Casino, Westmoreland, Oriskany, and Marcy. Totality will last 3 minutes 47 seconds and hardly a few seconds shorter in Utica. The start of totality is around 1:44 P.M. and lasts until about 1:48 P.M. There are no more total eclipses visible in Utica through the year 3000.

•July 3, 2866 – The final total solar eclipse to touch New York during this millennium is a true Great American Eclipse as it begins in southern California and sweeps across the Midwest and across Pennsylvania with the southern portion of New York witnessing it. Centerline is near Scranton with Utica 98.2% eclipsed at 11:31 A.M.

It is exciting to experience the rush of adrenaline when totality arrives and watch in awe to see the delicate white streamers of the Sun surrounding the black Moon like a cosmic flower. The Ring of Fire of annularity has its own magic, but we can be thankful we live on a world where the size and distance of the Moon is just right to experience these heavenly wonders.