Catch An Extra-Special Solar Eclipse

On Sunday, May 20th, anyone who happens to be on a strip of earth 300 kilometers wide and thousands of kilometers long will be able to look up and witness a full annular solar eclipse—the first one visible from the United States since George Bush the First was partway though his presidency.

An annular eclipse happens when the moon crosses directly in front of the sun, blotting out all but its peripheral edge, as the lunar disk isn't quite big enough to totally cover the visible sun. At its peak, those positioned in that 300-kilometer swath will see the moon form a "black hole" in the center of the sun.

"I like to compare different types of eclipses on a scale of 1 to 10 as visual spectacles," says NASA's Fred Espenak of the Goddard Space Flight Center. "If a partial eclipse is a 5 then an annular eclipse is a 9."

Gadling is reporting that 33 National Parks are in prime position for at least a partial view of the event—while six of those parks lie directly in the optimal viewing path. Those six include Redwoods National Park and Lassen Volcanic National Park in California; Zion National Park in Utah; Glen Canyon National Recreation Area in Arizona; and Chaco Culture National Historical Park and Petroglyph National Monument in New Mexico.