2023 annular solar eclipse guide: What to know and how to see it (safely) in Oregon

Many Oregonians likely remember the 2017 total solar eclipse and all the hype leading up to it. In less than a month, an annular solar eclipse, known as the “ring of fire” will be taking a similar path across the state, though astronomers point out key differences from the once-in-a-lifetime event five years ago.

As you begin to make plans to view the eclipse, here’s a guide to what you should know, and how the experience will deviate from 2017's total eclipse.

Annular vs. total eclipse

A solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the sun and the Earth at a particular angle, blocking the light from the sun and casting a shadow on the Earth.

In the path of a total eclipse, this shadow turns day into twilight, which is what many in Oregon saw on Aug. 21, 2017.

Observing an annular eclipse is somewhat less dramatic, though still cool, astronomers say. The apparent size of the moon’s disc is slightly smaller than that of the sun, so the outer edge of the sun remain visible, known as the “ring of fire.”

The last annular eclipse was visible in Oregon May 20, 2012.

“It just so happens that in this eclipse, the moon is going to be a little farther away from the Earth, and that makes it a little smaller in the sky," University of Oregon astronomy professor Scott Fisher said. "And so when the moon goes in front of the sun, this time, a ring of the sun is going to be visible around the moon, and that's why we call it an annular eclipse because the shape of sun is an annulus."

This map shows the "path of annularity" — the path where people can see the annular "ring of fire" solar eclipse on the morning of Oct. 14.
This map shows the "path of annularity" — the path where people can see the annular "ring of fire" solar eclipse on the morning of Oct. 14.

When and where you can see the eclipse in Oregon on Oct. 14

The annular eclipse will be visible in Oregon between 9:15 a.m. and 9:24 a.m. Oct. 14. You will get about four minutes and 24 seconds to view annularity, but the length depends on your location.

The first landfall of the eclipse will be at the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. Cities within the path include Eugene, Corvallis, Albany, Roseburg, Coos Bay, Medford and Klamath Falls. Salem will experience a partial eclipse, “where a big bite of the sun is taken out by the moon,” Fisher said.

Outside of Oregon, pieces of California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Texas will be in the path of annularity.

The Willamette Valley experience

Salem is out of the path this time around, but Oregonians outside the direct path will still be in view of a partial eclipse. If you are looking for the full annular experience, anywhere from Corvallis to Cottage Grove will do.

No matter where you go, it’s important to make sure you’re facing east and consider the sun’s position in the sky for the time of year.

“In the beautiful Willamette Valley, we do sometimes have morning fog,” Fisher added.

In that case, make sure to get above it.

Eugene is expected to be a popular destination, with Spencer Butte, Mount Pisgah, Skinner Butte and Wild Iris Ridge likely to be gorgeous.

Realistically, any mountaintop view should work.

Traveling for a view

Crater Lake National Park is an expected hotspot. Travel Oregon communications manager Allie Gardner said the park’s lodging is sold out, and the nearby Eclipse Fest in Chiloquin is expecting more than 6,000 attendees.

Gardner warns of uncertain weather for the time of year at high-elevation locations like Crater Lake.

“We could have snow-covered roads,” she said. “So between the weather and the potential that October could be cloudy, you’re going to want to keep an eye on the forecast before you head out.”

Klamath Falls is also expecting crowds, though there are still nearby hotel rooms available.

Heading to the coast could be a great option too, and there will be plenty of events for those interested. You can watch with rangers and astronomers at Shore Acres State Park or head to Bullard Beach in Bandon for the Festival of Lights Watch Party.

Watch out for traffic

Traffic is another consideration. It likely won’t be anywhere near 2017 levels, but this year’s eclipse is on a college football Saturday. The Beavers will be playing at home in Corvallis — making for a fun tailgate and eclipse party before the game against UCLA.

The Ducks football team is on the road at Washington in Seattle.

Your best bet is to get as close to your viewing spot as possible by Friday night, Gardner said, which has potential night sky benefits as well.

“That weekend of the eclipse also happens to be a new moon, and so that's going to give you excellent stargazing opportunities,” Gardner said. “So you could kind of stay for the weekend, see the eclipse on Saturday, see the milky way at night — could make for a really great weekend.”

Photographers make images of the 2017 total eclipse over Madras in this four hour time-lapse composite image.
Photographers make images of the 2017 total eclipse over Madras in this four hour time-lapse composite image.

How to stay safe while viewing the eclipse

This year, it’s especially important to note the need for eclipse glasses the whole way through.

“Back in 2017, once we got to totality, it was okay to take your glasses off for a couple minutes and see that beautiful corona,” Fisher said. “But this time, there’s going to be enough of the sun showing that you’ll want to keep your glasses on the whole time.”

You can purchase eclipse glasses at the OMSI science store or pick them up for free while supplies last at a Travel Oregon Welcome Center.

When it comes to taking photos, you can do it, but prepare for poor quality if you’re using your smartphone. Good photographs require a higher quality camera, telephoto lens and solar filter, since the eclipse can destroy camera sensors much like your eyes.

Olivia Stevens is an outdoor journalism intern at the Statesman Journal. She can be reached at OStevens@statesmanjournal.com. Find her on Twitter at @byoliviastevens.

This article originally appeared on Salem Statesman Journal: 2023 annular solar eclipse in Oregon: What to know, how to see it