Experience the May 20 Ring Of Fire Eclipse From America's National Parks
The coming annular eclipse promises to be a breathtaking celestial spectacle. Why not view it from one of America's scenic National Parks?
This May 20, 2012 the a narrow swath of the American South West will bear witness to one of nature's most awe-inspiring spectacles—an annular or "ring of fire" solar eclipse. Where better to see it than one of our National Parks? The beauty of the parks' surroundings plus their unobstructed, unpolluted night skies could make viewing the eclipse a once-in-a-lifetime experience for those lucky enough to be in the eclipse's shadow.
Well if anything, it's certainly a once-in-two-decades experience. If you live in the continental U.S., you haven't had the chance to witness a solar eclipse for 18 years. The only bad news is that this won't be a total solar eclipse; the Moon is just a little too far away to completely block the Sun, making this a "Ring of Fire" eclipse (and still very dangerous to behold with the naked eye!). However, the Moon will still cross in front of the Sun when viewed at or near six National Parks:
The Top 6 National Parks to See the May 20 Eclipse
- Redwoods National Park: The peak or full eclipse will last from about 6:24 p.m. to 6:29 p.m. Because of the densely forested nature of much of the park, your best viewing areas will be from the beach.
- Lassen Volcanic National Park: Although the "maximum eclipse" will occur at 6:28 p.m., there will be "Ranger-led" programs as early as 3 p.m., and the celebration lasts until sunset at 8:20 p.m.
- Zion National Park:The total eclipse will occur from about 7:31 p.m. to 7:36 p.m., but the partial eclipse will be happening for an hour before and after. With almost no chance of cloudy skies, expect a breathtaking sunset eclipse surrounded by Zion's rugged majesty.
- Canyon de Chelly National Monument: Although an ideal vantage point for viewing, absolutely no special celebrations will be held during the eclipse out of respect for the Navajo tradition. Please contact the National Park Service if you are planning to view the eclipse from Canyon de Chelly, and take note that, unlike most of Arizona, the Navajo Nation observes Mountain Daylight Time.
- Glen Canyon National Recreation Area: The best views of the eclipse will be from 6:32 p.m. to 6:35 p.m. and as close to the border (near Page, Arizona) as you can get. Just remember, Arizona doesn't "do" Daylight Savings, so 6:32 p.m. for AZ is actually 7:32 p.m. once you cross the border into Utah.
- New Mexico
- Petroglyph National Monument: The generally clear New Mexico skies and period of annularity, a perfectly centered moon for four and a half minutes, starting at 7:33 p.m. make this a perfect spot for eclipse watchers. The media presence will be concentrated here, and the proximity of Albuquerque may likewise influence your experience.
If you are too far from one of these ideal eclipse viewing locations, don't worry, because much of the Western U.S. will be treated to some portion of the astronomical event. Although technically "off-center," a wonderful solar eclipse will also be viewable in the following locations.
The Best Spots to See an Off-Center Eclipse
- Lava Beds National Monument: Eclipse festivities at Captain Jack's Stronghold from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
- Whiskeytown-Shasta-Trinity National Recreation Area: The Shasta Astronomy Club gives us unofficial confirmation of eclipse party on May 20.
- Oregon Caves National Monument: No special events posted.
- Great Basin National Park: Events begin May 19 with a Pre-Eclipse Star Party, and then Eclipse Day starting at 3 p.m.
- Bryce Canyon National Park: 12th Annual Astronomy Festival, May 17 - 20, culminating in the eclipse.
- Capitol Reef National Park: No events posted
- Cedar Breaks National Monument: Still closed for the season, but the NPS directs visitors to nearby Kanarraville, which is expecting serious "astro-tourism" as a result.
- Hovenweep National Monument: No special events posted.
- Natural Bridges National Monument: Ranger-guided eclipse viewing from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
- Mesa Verde National Park: No special events posted.
- Yucca House National Monument: No special events posted.
- Grand Canyon National Park: eclipse-related events from 11 a.m., culminating in the South Rim Star Party
- Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site: No special events posted.
- Navajo National Monument: No special events posted.
- Petrified Forest National Park: The Painted Desert will be a stunning place to view the eclipse from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
- Wupatki National Monument: Jeff Hall of the Lowell Observatory joins Wupatki for an eclipse program starting at 5 p.m.
- New Mexico
- Aztec Ruins National Monument: a special presentation at 6 p.m. on the ancient Puebloan rituals, architecture, and overall relationship with the heavens entitled "Watching the Sky and Earth."
- Bandelier National Monument: All day, from 2 p.m. to 11 p.m., a program of family-focused eclipse-related activities.
- Chaco Culture National Historical Park: Solar telescopes and guides available from 6 p.m. to sunset.
- El Malpais National Monument: No special events posted.
- El Morrow National Monument: Nothing posted, but some sort of event was rumored to be in the works, so call to be certain.
- Fort Union National Monument: No special events posted.
- Pecos National Historical Park: No special events posted.
- Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument: Eclipse viewing at Gran Quivira.
Still too far from you? All is not lost. An unforgettable heavenly spectacle will be viewable as far East as Lake Superior and Lubbock, Texas. This area includes National Parks in a number of states, so a partial solar eclipse can still be seen at:
Parks to See a Partial Eclipse
- Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument
- Apostle Islands National Lakeshore
- Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site
- Chamizal National Monument
- Effigy Mounds National Monument
- Fort Larned National Historic Site
- Guadalupe Mountains National Park
- Harry S. Truman National Historic Site
- Isle Royale National Park
- Lake Meredith National Recreation Area
- Mississippi River National Recreation Area
- Nicodemus National Historic Site
- Pipestone National Monument
- St. Croix River National Scenic River
- Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve
- Voyageurs National Park
- Washita Battlefield National Historic Site
Note: "no special events posted" only means that we couldn't confirm any scheduled eclipse events; please contact your chosen National Park to verify the schedule for May 20, 2012. Check out nps.gov for more info. Park hours and weather permitting, any of these should be wonderful places to view the eclipse.
View Eclipse National Parks in a larger map