Alanna Mayham

PORTLAND, Ore. (CN) — An annular solar eclipse is set to thrill millions of cosmic gazers in southwestern U.S. states on Saturday as it travels the skies from Oregon all the way to the Gulf of Mexico and beyond.

The annular event will begin shortly after 9 a.m. on the Oregon coast north of Florence and Coos Bay, where spectators within a 125-mile-wide path from Oregon to Texas and into South America will watch the moon slowly cover up to 85% of the sun’s solar disk.

Because annular eclipses only cover part of the sun, they are known for creating a “ring of fire” around the moon (per Latin annular for “ring-shaped”) when the moon is directly centered in front of the sun. This specific phenomenon occurs when the moon is far enough away from Earth to appear smaller than the sun when the two celestial bodies align.

An annular solar eclipse shouldn’t be confused with a total solar eclipse, though, as the latter brings about “totality” — or when the moon is close enough to Earth to appear as large as the sun, causing the moon to temporarily block the sun’s light and darken skies.

For either event, annularity or totality is only visible within a narrow path created by the moon’s shadow. Spectators within the path of the Oct. 14 annular eclipse will see the ring appear for up to five minutes and 17 seconds, while those outside the direct path will see the sun disappear to varying degrees.

According to NASA, some of the best U.S. cities for viewing the eclipse with maximum coverage include Eugene, Oregon; Elko, Nevada; Roswell, New Mexico; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Kerrville, Texas and Corpus Christie, Texas. After passing over the Gulf of Mexico, the eclipse will pass over the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico, Belize, parts of Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama.

Upon reaching South America, the ring of fire will travel over Colombia and Northern Brazil before culminating at sunset over the Atlantic Ocean. But for those without an opportunity to view the eclipse this time, a total solar eclipse will arrive in North America in only five months.

On Apr. 8, 2024, the moon will completely cover the sun as it did in 2017. Only this time, the moon’s shadow will darken skies along a 115-mile-wide path in North America from Mexico all the way to Maine and eastern Canada.

According to the American Astronomical Society, the 2017 total solar eclipse was the first to pass over the lower 48 states since 1979 and the first to span the U.S. — making the occurrence of two different solar events in a short time frame a unique opportunity for eclipse chasers in the U.S.

While Oregon businesses prepare for an influx of visitors, one event will occur over three days just for the eclipse. Starting on Friday, the Annular Eclipse Festival will welcome up to 3,000 eclipse chasers about 20 miles from Crater Lake National Park in Klamath County.

“It’s entirely centered around the 2023 annular eclipse, so it has never happened before,” said festival organizer Sara Irvine, who said she and other event organizers began planning the festival this past March.

In addition to viewing the eclipse, festivalgoers will also get to watch a concert from Smash Mouth, a 90s rock group famous for the songs “Walking on the Sun” and “All Star.”

“We wanted something that was very family friendly,” Irvine said.

But besides the festival’s exciting activities, there’s a chance that Oregon’s viewing opportunities may not be as clear as those for spectators in Utah, New Mexico or Texas. When asked whether Oregon’s cloudy conditions will damper the festival’s view of the eclipse, Irvine explained that, of all the places in Oregon, the Weather Channel chose to stream there, stating it was the best place in Oregon for the event.

“I’m going to take their word for it and just assume it’s the best,” Irvine said.

Cloudy or not, spectators on Saturday should be wary that the sun will remain dangerously bright, even during annularity. For this reason, the American Astronomical Society recommends viewing the eclipse with safe solar filters that meets international standards to avoid serious or permanent eye injury.