Over large swaths of the Americas this month and next April, too, all eyes will be on the skies during two spectacular events.
Between the “ring of fire” annular eclipse coming up on October 14, 2023, and the 2024 total solar eclipse happening on April 8, 2024, viewers on land in the United States and neighboring countries are in for two major celestial moments as the moon passes between Earth and the sun.
And while the total solar eclipse is a bigger draw for most travelers since it promises totality (darkness during the moments when the moon covers the sun entirely), tourists are targeting areas in the annular eclipse’s path, too.
Car-sharing website Turo reports seeing an uptick in car bookings in major cities in Oregon, New Mexico and Texas near the annular eclipse’s path.
Booking.com similarly reports increased searches for San Antonio, Texas, the largest US city in the annular eclipse’s path, for the period of October 13 to 15, 2023, compared with the same period last year.
Path of the ‘ring of fire’ eclipse
During October’s annular eclipse, which starts at 9:13 a.m. PT along the Oregon coast and ends in the United States in Texas at 12:03 p.m. CT, the moon will cover over 90% of the sun’s surface as it passes in front of it (as opposed to 100% coverage during a total eclipse).
The uncovered portion creates a striking “ring of fire” effect that can be seen when using protective viewing glasses during annularity, as the moon moves directly in front of the sun.
The path continues through parts of Central and South America (Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Colombia and Brazil) before finishing its run at sunset over the Atlantic Ocean.
For many, the event is being seen as a sort of warm-up for the 2024 total solar eclipse, which professor Mark Littmann calls “the gold standard” of eclipse viewing.
And while it will never get as dark during October’s annular eclipse as it does during a total solar eclipse, some interesting effects may be possible to observe, says Littmann, a professor of science writing at the University of Tennessee and co-author of “Totality: The Great North American Eclipse of 2024.”
“The sky may take on some unusual color in terms of a steely gray flatness, blues may be a different color. These things depend on the weather, too,” Littman said. “It may cool down just a little bit. It gives you a kind of an omen of what a total eclipse would look like.”
Viewing an annular eclipse is far from routine: The next one won’t happen over the contiguous United States until 2046.
For viewers in the path of the eclipse who get a clear-sky view on the event at the moment of annularity, the “ring of fire” will not only “look really cool,” says Debra Ross, co-chair of the American Astronomical Society’s Eclipse Task Force, but drive home Earth’s place in the universe, too, with the moon so clearly between us and the sun.
“For lots of people, that’s worth traveling for,” Ross says.
If you’re looking for great places to put yourself in the path of annularity for the October 14 eclipse, read on.
Utah’s national parks
“National parks that are known for their spectacular landscapes will be especially attractive to photographers looking to capture wide-angle shots of the eclipsed sun,” Richard Tresch Fienberg, senior contributing editor for astronomy publication Sky & Telescope, told CNN Travel via email
Utah has spectacular parks in the October eclipse’s path including Bryce Canyon National Park and Grand-Staircase Escalante National Monument as well as Capitol Reef National Park and Canyonlands National Park, all of which will see annularity (provided there’s no cloud cover) while remaining open to visitors during the eclipse.
Keep in mind that Navajo Tribal Parks – including Monument Valley and Four Corners Monument, where Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado meet – are closed during the annular eclipse since the Navajo people consider eclipses to be sacred events.
You can make more than a day out of celebrating the eclipse by booking a four-night guided backpacking trip with Wildland Trekking along the Boulder Mail Trail in Bryce Canyon Country’s Grand-Staircase Escalante National Monument that takes you right into the path of annularity.
Albuquerque and Roswell, New Mexico
Imagine seeing an annular eclipse from on high during a hot air balloon ride – and that’s what some lucky people will be doing during this year’s Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, which runs from October 7 to 15.
The event’s signature “mass ascension,” when more than 550 balloons rise into the sky, is scheduled to lift off a little over an hour before annularity, adding to the views for people watching from the ground as the moon makes its way between the Earth and the sun. Some balloons may still be in the air at the time of annularity according to festival organizers, and 72 hot air balloons will be displayed on the launch field, another amazing place to watch the spectacle.
Albuquerque’s Balloon Museum is hosting viewing opportunities and presentations with NASA and NOAA representatives during the event and has 80,000 pairs of viewing glasses to hand out to visitors.
Consider hitting the path of annularity in southeastern New Mexico town of Roswell, too.
“You can bet that more than a few people will want to witness the otherworldly phenomenon of a solar eclipse from the UFO capital of the world,” Clark says. In the city’s downtown district, annularity will last for about four minutes and 42 seconds, with the Roswell Public Library and Cielo Grande Recreation Area among the locations holding watch events.