Plan Ahead for the 2023 Annular Solar Eclipse — and a Visit to Dark Sky Parks


This week Canada, Greenland, and Russia viewed a brief “ring of fire” annular solar eclipse, which brought a crescent Sun to the northeast U.S. Occurring at sunrise in North America, the partial solar eclipse was low on the horizon and therefore difficult to see; meanwhile cross-border eclipse-chasing proved all but impossible. Fortunately, we’ll have another shot soon enough.

So when is the next such eclipse? On October 14, 2023, an annular solar eclipse will again be visible from the U.S., this time from a roughly 125-mile-wide path of annularity that passes through Oregon, Utah, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas before it crosses Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Colombia, and Brazil. Everyone in the Americas will see a partial solar eclipse that will last more than 2.5 hours. Remember: Eclipse glasses and solar filters will have to be used everywhere, and throughout the spectacle.

map showing the 2023 eclipse path
A map showing visibility for the annular solar eclipse on October 14, 2023.
Michael Zeiler / GreatAmericanEclipse.com

The dramatic view of the Sun as a roughly 90%-eclipsed “ring of fire” will mostly serve as a warm-up for the much more anticipated event six months later, when a total solar eclipse strikes Mexico, the U.S., and Canada on April 8, 2024. The paths of the two eclipses both cross a part of Texas — from there it will be possible to see two solar eclipses within six months.

a map showing the eclipse lines for 2023 and 2024 intersecting at texas
National Parks inside the paths of the 2023 and 2024 solar eclipses.
Michael Zeiler / GreatAmericanEclipse.com

While 2024’s naked-eye totality will be an unparalleled experience, the timing and location of the 2023 eclipse will deliver some high drama through eclipse glasses. “The eclipse is a morning event, which means that the eclipsed Sun will be juxtaposed against the iconic landscapes of the American West,” says John Barentine (International Dark-Sky Association). “The duration of annularity is rather short at only about four and a half minutes, leading to a fairly thin ring at mid-eclipse—a sight that few observers will forget.”

The eclipse will occur when the Sun is 17º to 49º above the horizon in the southeast daytime sky, so it’ll be well-positioned for viewing. Also, the prospects of a clear sky in the western U.S. in October are rather good; fall days and nights in the Colorado Plateau are often clear and dry.

milky way above the silhouette of rock pinnacles
The Milky Way soars above rock pinnacles of Chesler Park in Canyonlands National Park, as it will in the dark nights around 2023’s annular solar eclipse.
NPS / Emily Ogden

However, what should also persuade amateur astronomers to take a road trip in 2023 is the prospect of fabulous stargazing under dark night skies. “Since the eclipse can only happen close to a New Moon, there will be little or no moonlight interference for nighttime observing for several nights on either side of eclipse day,” says Barentine.

October nights also offer the best of the Milky Way at dawn and dusk, while the minor Draconids and Orionids meteor showers will peak the week before and after the eclipse, respectively. Venus will be at its highest point above the horizon in the morning sky while Jupiter will be close to its bright annual opposition.


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Dark Sky Parks Along the Eclipse Path

This eclipse will be visible from many state and national parks, including no fewer than 20 International Dark Sky Parks. Three of them — Devils River State Natural Area, Massacre Rim Wilderness Study Area, and Rainbow Bridge National Monument — are remote International Dark Sky Sanctuaries. Some of these saw the sunset annular solar eclipse of May 20, 2012. There are many other tantalizing observing locations, including Oregon’s Crater Lake National Park and Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park on the Utah/Arizona border.

map showing park locations for 2023 eclipse
There are dozens of national parks and beauty spots in or close to the “path of annularity” on October 14, 2023.
Michael Zeiler / GreatAmericanEclipse.com

Here we present only the International Dark Sky Parks, with each accompanied by that location’s “ring time,” the altitude of the eclipse, and where that location is with respect to the path of annularity.

Dark Sky Park Length of annular phase Eclipse altitude Location in path of annularity
Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah 2 minutes, 15 seconds 30º Southern edge
Canyonlands National Park, Utah 2 minutes, 24 seconds 31º Northern edge
Capitol Reef National Park, Utah 4 minutes, 37 seconds 30º Centerline
Chaco Culture National Historical Park, New Mexico 4 minutes, 42 seconds 34º Centerline
Devils River State Natural Area, Texas 2 minutes, 19 seconds 45º Southern edge
Fremont Indian State Park, Utah 4 minutes, 39 seconds 29º Centerline
Great Basin National Park, Nevada 3 minutes, 29 seconds 27º Towards southern edge
Goosenecks State Park, Utah 4 minutes, 40 seconds 32º Centerline
Goblin Valley State Park, Utah 2 minutes, 55 seconds 30º Towards northern edge
Hovenweep National Monument, Utah and Colorado 3 minutes, 47 seconds 32º Towards northern edge
Kodachrome Basin State Park, Utah 2 minutes, 28 seconds 30º Towards southern edge
Massacre Rim Wilderness Study Area, Utah 3 minutes, 57 seconds 22º Towards southern edge
Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado 2 minutes, 58 seconds 33º Towards northern edge
Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah 4 minutes, 28 seconds 31º Centerline
Rainbow Bridge National Monument, Arizona 3 minutes, 12 seconds 31º Towards southern edge
Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument, New Mexico 4 minutes, 3 seconds 37º Towards southern edge
South Llano River State Park, Texas 4 minutes, 28 seconds 45º Centerline
Valles Caldera National Preserve, New Mexico 3 minutes, 31 seconds 35º Towards northern edge
Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico 4 minutes, 34 seconds 36º Centerline
UBarU Camp and Retreat Center, Texas 3 minutes, 54 seconds 46º Towards northern edge

“Among the darkest International Dark Sky Parks that will see true annularity or are within reasonable driving distance of the centerline, I would count Natural Bridges National Monument, Hovenweep National Monument, Rainbow Bridge National Monument, the Massacre Rim Wilderness Study Area, and the southern reaches of Capitol Reef,” says Barentine.

As an added point of interest, some think that the “Piedra del Sol” petroglyph carved by Ancestral Puebloan people in New Mexico’s Chaco Canyon may represent the solar corona as seen during a total solar eclipse on July 11, 1097, though it’s a controversial claim. “But, of course,” Barentine adds, “every park has something special to offer and visiting any of them is a worthwhile experience.”

a yellow, round petroglyph with tentacle like arms coming off of it against an brown background
Does the “Piedra del Sol” petroglyph in Chaco Canyon represent an eclipse of the Sun?
J. McKim Malville / University of Colorado

On the actual day of the eclipse, it may make sense to position yourself at the limit of the path of annularity. “For a total solar eclipse, you want to be near the middle of the path of totality for the longest duration, but for annular eclipses, the northern or southern limits of the path have great appeal,” says Michael Zeiler, a Santa Fe-based cartographer who runs GreatAmericanEclipse.com. “From there you’ll see a fantastic light show as the last bits of sunlight — called Baily’s Beads — rotate about the disk of the Moon.” However, doing so does sacrifice how long you see the ring.

a ring of fire eclipse above red clouds
The annular eclipse of May 20, 2012, as seen from Wolfforth, Texas.
Eddie Wimberley / Wikipedia

Either way, you can plan your observing using this map, which has embedded links to topography to ensure you get a clear view of the eclipse. You can also simulate exactly what you’ll see.

Eclipse-chasing in all its forms is a wonderful excuse to explore our planet — but only if you plan ahead. “Travelers may well want to look for reservations as much as a year in advance,” says Barentine. “A thin ring at mid-eclipse and many good nights of stargazing under dark night skies make this a trip not to be missed.”

Jamie Carter is the Editor of WhenIsTheNextEclipse.com and the author of several eclipse travel guides.





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