"Ring of Fire" Eclipse To Appear Sunday

A rare annular solar eclipse will appear in the skies of the western United States.

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A rare annular solar eclipse will appear in the skies of the western United States.

An ominous "ring of fire" will blaze in the sky above the U.S. West Coast this Sunday, but it won't have anything to do with a Mayan apocalypse.

[Picture: "Ring of Fire" Eclipse]

A rare annular solar eclipse, when the moon blocks out all but the fiery outline of the sun, will appear over the continental United States for the first time since 1994, according to NASA scientists. Only parts of northern California and southern Oregon will be treated to the ring of fire effect, beginning at 5:24 p.m. Pacific time, but a much larger area of North America will see a partial eclipse.

Partial and annular eclipses are different from the total eclipse, when the moon completely blocks out the sun. Because the moon's orbit is currently at its furthest point from Earth it will only block 94 percent of the sun's light.

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The sun will set before the eclipse will be visible on the East Coast, though much of the central U.S. will catch a glimpse. A full table of eclipse times in the U.S. is available here.

The eclipse comes just weeks after the so-called "supermoon," the biggest and brightest full moon of the year. Then, the moon was about 15,300 miles closer to the Earth than average, making the moon appear 14 percent larger. Its orbit has since swung the moon back to its apogee, the furthest point from Earth, appearing just small enough to not totally cover the full face of the sun during this weekend's eclipse.