The University of New Mexico Physics and Astronomy Department will co-host a series of events and educational programming designed to coincide with an upcoming annular solar eclipse. On Sunday, May 20, the western U.S. will experience a solar eclipse. For most of the region, this will be a partial eclipse, but a small swath of the country including eclipse viewers in Albuquerque, will get to see an annular "Ring of Fire" eclipse, where the Moon will block out all but a small ring around the edge of the Sun.

The Solar Eclipse viewing event near the UNM Observatory parking lot, located off Yale Blvd. on the north side of Lomas Blvd., begins at 6 p.m. on Sunday, May 20. Interested attendees are encouraged to show up before the eclipse starts. Safety glasses for viewing will be given out free at the event.

The eclipse begins in Albuquerque at 6:28 p.m. local time. The annular phase starts at 7:33 p.m. and lasts for approximately four minutes. At this time, the Sun will be approximately five degrees above the western horizon.

Albuquerque is in the direct path of eclipse maximum for this solar eclipse, which means that the Moon will pass in front of the Sun and those in Albuquerque will get to see an amazing show. What makes these events rare is the relatively small shadow that the Moon casts on Earth.

"Albuquerque is in a good place for viewing in the path of the eclipse," said Richard Rand, professor and event coordinator, Department of Physics and Astronomy. "We are right in the center, and the only big city, in the path of the eclipse. This means planning is required in order to see the eclipse maximum."

In the days before the eclipse, a series of free public lectures will be held at UNM and the New Mexico Museum of Natural History with interesting information about the annular eclipse and the Venus transit, the science of eclipses and transits, and a bit of history surrounding these events.

Lecture Schedule
The events begin on Friday, May 11 at 3 p.m. with a lecture titled, "The Very Rare and Amazing May 20 Annular Eclipse and June 5 Transit of Venus," given by Ylva Pihlstrom, associate professor, UNM Department of Physics and Astronomy. The lecture will be held in Regener Hall, rm. 103.

Other lectures will be held on Sunday, May 13 at 1:30 p.m., by John Dickel, adjunct professor, UNM Department of Physics and Astronomy, as part of the Solar Sundays program at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, and on Friday, May 18 at 8 p.m., a talk titled, "Two Celestial Events," will be given by Jack Brandt, adjunct professor, UNM Department of Physics and Astronomy. Brandt's talk will be held in the ballrooms at the UNM Student Union Building. Free parking is available in UNM Lots A and E bordered by Central Ave, Redondo Rd, Stanford and Girard Blvd. On Sunday, May 20 at 1:30 p.m., prior to the viewing at the UNM Observatory, a talk titled, "The Very Rare and Amazing May 20 Annular Eclipse and June 5 Transit of Venus," will be given by Greg Taylor, associate professor, UNM Department of Physics and Astronomy, at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History.

This particular eclipse will be of the annular type, which means the sun won't be completely blocked out like the more commonly known total eclipse. For annular eclipses, the size of the Moon will appear to be just smaller than the Sun, which will leave a small ring (an annulus) of the Sun still visible around the Moon when the Moon is completely in front of the Sun. For this reason, it won't get dark during this eclipse.

For a complete list of events as well as links and a variety of informational links leading up to the Annular Eclipse including eclipses in general, and Safety and Lecture Information, visit: Eclipse 2012.

"Safety is very important," added Rand. "Never look directly into the sun with your eyes or through a pair of binoculars, cameras or telescopes.
Additionally, on Tuesday, June 5 at 4 p.m., the UNM Observatory will be open for the Transit of Venus. This rare alignment occurs when Venus passes directly between earth and the sun, and viewers see the distant planet as a small dot gliding slowly across the face of the sun. Historically, this is how astronomers measured the size of our solar system.

For more information, visit: Transit of Venus.

Other event sponsors include: The National Park Service, Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum, Bernalillo County, the Albuquerque Astronomical Society, Albuquerque Convention and Visitors Bureau, City of Albuquerque Open Space, the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, and Sandia Peak Tramway.

Media Contact: Steve Carr (505) 277-1821; e-mail: scarr@unm.edu