The South Plains will be treated to a rare sight this weekend, and we will be among the very few in a position to enjoy it. However, caution is required.
An annular (not to be confused with annual) solar eclipse will be visible along a relatively thin slice of the western US this Sunday (May 20), running from near Eureka CA, Reno NV, St. George UT, Albuquerque NM, to... Lubbock! Elsewhere in the US this will be a partial eclipse, or not visible at all.
Since this is an annular eclipse even at totality the sun will not be totally blocked out. That is a major treat since the visible outside edge of the sun will look like a ring in the sky. That is also a major threat since some of the sun will be visible even at totality. Do NOT look directly at it without proper eye-wear or equipment.
The eclipse will occur just before sunset, so you want as much of the western horizon as possible visible. The predicted time of the eclipse beginning in Lubbock is 7:31 pm (CDT) and maximum is 8:36 pm. Here on the South Plains we will not be able to see the end since it will occur just after local sunset (about 8:45 pm). According to NASA, at full eclipse - when just a ring of the sun is visible - just 6 percent of the sun will be visible, but it will be 60-thousand times brighter than a full moon. It will still be intense enough to damage your eyes if you look directly at it.
The first 1:15 of this video at Space.com has more information, and is recommended viewing if you plan on watching the eclipse:
Find out more, including why this is an "annular" eclipse and safe viewing tips, at Space.com here:
If you want some help, or company, or safety assurances while viewing the eclipse, it will be available for free Sunday evening in Lubbock. You can even get help building your own safe viewer on site. Lubbock Lake Landmark and the South Plains Astronomy Club are hosting an Eclipse Party Sunday, May 20, beginning at 6:30 pm at Lubbock Lake Landmark. On site there will be a 40 inch TV for viewing, plus club members will be on hand to assist you in assembling your own pinhole viewer from materials provided. You may also purchase specialty eclipse viewers from the Astronomy Club. Bring chairs and blankets and plan on a stay of a couple of hours (or longer).
For more information on the eclipse, including a map, viewing tips, equipment tips, and more, visit the South Plains Astronomy Club web site: http://southplainsastronomy.org/may-20-eclipse-party/
Remember, this is an eclipse of the SUN. Permanent eye damage is likely if you try to view the eclipse - even at totality - with naked eyes. Sunglasses, regardless of quality or cost, will not protect your eyes. If you search the web for "pinhole eclipse viewer" or similar phrase you will find a number of viewers you can make at home. One with the most straightforward construction is here, courtesy of the Hila Science Camp of the Renfrew County CDSB in Ontario Canada:
Here are the materials and tools you will need:
Our current forecast calls for a cold front to move into Lubbock and the South Plains Sunday morning. This will bring increasing cloudiness and a chance of rain to the area. The showers and clouds may very well interfere with or even prevent viewing of the eclipse early Sunday evening. Check our forecast on our Weather page at kcbd.com/weather, or catch one of our updated forecasts live on KCBD NewsChannel 11.