Friday, May 18, 2012 | 2 a.m.
Beyond the Sun
- Could eclipse be a ray of light for Nevada tourism? (10-17-2011)
Renoites always knew they were special — particularly when compared with Las Vegas.
This weekend, their boast will be proved by the sun.
While Las Vegas may get a slight glimpse at a partial solar eclipse on Sunday, Reno will be front and center for what is expected to be a spectacular near-total eclipse of the sun.
By luck of geography, Reno lies in the center of the path of this year’s annular eclipse.
What does that mean?
At just about 6:30 p.m., the moon and the sun will be in perfect alignment. But because the moon is at its furthest point in its orbit around Earth, it won’t be big enough to completely block the view of the sun.
The result: a fantastic ring of fire burning around a solid black center.
Even better, the eclipse is expected to last for more than four minutes.
“The annular eclipse is neater than a total eclipse because the moon doesn’t block out the sun completely,” said Dan Ruby an astronomer with the Fleischmann Planetarium in Reno. “You’ll still have that ring of sunlight around the moon. It should be a pretty cool sight.”
Las Vegas won’t see the show because while Reno lies almost in the center of the 150-mile wide “path of annularity,” Las Vegas sits just to the south of it.
“What people in Vegas will get is a partial eclipse with the moon just kind of grazing the sun,” Ruby said.
Reno’s front-row seat has eclipse chasers from around the globe traveling to Northern Nevada.
Hotels are offering room specials. The planetarium is holding a festival. Viewing parties are being arranged.
And about 40 miles north of Reno, about 6,000 people are expected to celebrate the eclipse with a counterculture music festival on the shores of Pyramid Lake, which is just about on the center line of the eclipse path.
The solar eclipse is the third in a hat trick of cool astronomical happenings in Reno in the past few weeks. Last month, a meteor exploded over Reno, rattling windows and shaking homes across much of Northern California and Nevada. A few weeks later, the Super Moon made an appearance in Reno’s clear skies.
Partial solar eclipses are not rare. They happen about once a year. But an annular eclipse occurring where people can actually view it — for instance, not out in the middle of the ocean — is rare.
A near-total eclipse viewable from Reno?
“That’s exceedingly rare,” Ruby said.
The next one viewable from Northern Nevada won’t occur until 2045.
But don’t worry, Las Vegas. You can easily jump in the car and drive about two hours to the Cathedral Gorge near Pioche, which sits just inside the path of annularity.
The Las Vegas Astronomical Society will be on hand for the viewing party.