Solar eclipse blazes a 'ring of fire' this weekend

For the first time in 18 years, millions of people can watch the moon pass in front of the sun, exposing a brilliant scorching halo for up to 4.5 minutes in an annular solar eclipse.

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Here is a map showing where the eclipse can be seen in the U.S. this weekend. NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

People lucky enough to be in Southeast Asia and the western U.S. this weekend will have the chance to view the first annular solar eclipse of its kind since 1994, according to NASA. Rather than a complete blocking out of the sun, as seen in a total eclipse, a "ring of fire" will radiate from behind the moon as it passes in front of the fiery globe.

The transformation will begin on Sunday as the moon makes its voyage across the sun; at one point, as much as 94 percent of the sun will be covered, according to NASA.

"Hundreds of millions of people will be able to witness the event," NASA Science's Tony Phillips wrote on NASA's Science News Web page. "The eclipse zone stretches from southeast Asia across the Pacific Ocean to western parts of North America."

Typically these types of eclipses happen twice a year but usually can only be seen from few places on Earth. Those in Southeast Asia will be able to see the eclipse on Monday, and people in the U.S. states of Oregon, California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, and Texas will be able to start viewing around 5:30 p.m. PT on Sunday. The entire show should last about two hours with the "ring of fire" happening in the U.S. around 6:30 p.m. PT and lasting up to 4.5 minutes in some locations, according to NASA.

"Because some of the sun is always exposed during the eclipse, ambient daylight won't seem much different than usual," Phillips wrote. "Instead, the event will reveal itself in the shadows. Look on the ground beneath leafy trees for crescent-shaped sunbeams and rings of light."

This is a video by NASA Science about this weekend's annular solar eclipse: