ASE 2023: The Anti-Total Solar Eclipse

AS we look forward to the Great North American Eclipse of 2024, I can’t help being struck by the similarities of another solar eclipse that crossed this country and New York state in similar fashion. 


The last solar eclipse to cross the Empire State approaching 30 years ago, on May 10th which was a fantastically beautiful day in upstate New York. It was for the Annular Solar Eclipse (ASE) of 1994. It crossed the contiguous United States in a path almost identical to the coming Total Solar Eclipse (TSE) of 2024 with the path of the shadow shifting slightly north on the west end (through New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma) and then slightly south on the east end as it went through the New England States, with the path pivoting somewhere around Indiana and Ohio. (see Maps below and courtesy of Xavier Jabier: )


Hopefully the weather will be as perfect on April 8th, as it was on that May day. For it was a beautiful mid-spring day, with a combination of green leaves and tree buds beginning to sprout as we drove on scenic Taconic Parkway approaching the Taghkanic region. We made our observing site at the Clifton Park rest stop, roughly midway between the NY capital and Saratoga Springs, some 20 miles north of Albany.


ASE May 10, 1994 Remembrance:  Ironically, the date would become a bittersweet anniversary of the death of my father, 10 years later. Like me, he was an enthusiastic astronomer and helped me chase my first “central” solar eclipse. That eclipse made quite an impression on me, the incredulous power of the Moon to take away the life-giving light of the Sun in the middle of a gorgeous afternoon. You don’t view an ASE without protection but as the eclipse nears maximum, you will notice an unearthly ambience that seizes upon the landscape and the sky turns a driftwood gray as if it would rain but there be no clouds in the sky.


Remember the four stages of a solar eclipse: First contact is the very start of the event and the Moon takes a tiny bite out of the Sun. This lasts about an hour before the Moon moves in front of the Sun for second contact making the event a central eclipse. But in a matter of minutes or seconds this phase ends at third contact and the Moon begins to retrieve from the Sun. It is between second and third contact that determines if this is a Total Eclipse and there is complete “photospheric extinction” or an Annular Eclipse that fails to completely cover the Sun. This all depends on the apparent sizes of the Sun and the Moon. The entire event ends at fourth contact.

Referencing this ASE to the Saros series, this was number 128 which made a repeat performance in 2012 in the southwestern United States, to which I got to enjoy from northern Arizona. This brings to mind another Annular Solar Eclipse this October, which will traverse the western part of the United States.

How to Prepare for an Annular Eclipse!

The Anti-Total Solar Eclipse: An ASE has some interesting opposite attributes to a TSE, such as, while most will be at or near the centerline for a TSE, some may choose to be at or near the edge of the Antumbral path. This Antumbral shadow is different in that the Moon’s shadow cone doesn’t quite touch the Earth’s surface. Which sort of inverts the umbra cone into an Antumbral cone not quite covering the light source, or the Sun. [NASA picture]

[also see: ]

An observer may want to station oneself at either the northern or southern limits of the path. The reason being that some observers want to view a prolonged version of the Bailey’s beads, as opposed being at the centerline where you would get a perfect symmetrical view of a black disk within a golden sphere. Bailey’s beads are named after a London stock broker named Francis Bailey who observed a string of beads of broken sunlight along the edge of Lunar limb through its valleys in 1836.


The other opposite thing that an Umbraphile might do is to catch a nice sunrise or sunset of an Annular eclipse in order to obtain a pretty landscape in the foreground while the eclipsed Sun is muted by the thick air along the horizon. This sort of experimental photography might be best to leave to the more experienced photographers. (Note: Umbraphile is an eclipse chasing fanatic – see below Tony Hoffman’s Umbraphile Scale.)


ASE 2023 is Saros #134 which is a 5 minute eclipse which will double in duration in 144 plus years. It will become a Super Saros’s of sorts in the 22nd century as its Annular Eclipse duration will be 5 seconds short of 11 minutes in the year 2168. Annular eclipses are generally longer in the months of December and January, in part due to the Earth’s closeness to the Sun or what is called perihelion. This coupled with a Moon on the far end of its orbit from Earth (or Apogee) will give terrestrial viewers a long Annular duration. 


The opposite would be true for a TSE of a super long duration. Total Solar eclipses are generally longer in the months of June and July with the Sun being at aphelion, the point of its orbit farthest from the Sun. This coupled with a Moon at its closest approach to the Earth, or Perigee. 

[Also see: ]

In conclusion, Annular Solar Eclipse’s are essentially transits across the Sun’s disk and like the transit of Venus, all phases of the Eclipse need to be observed through filtered system to protect one’s vision.

[Tony Hoffman picture]

Tony Hoffman, an amateur astronomer and former AAA director, is an analyst (writer) at, and has come up with this ingenious “Eclipse Chaser” scale. Tony has been involved with various Citizen Scientist programs, as well as a humanitarian photography group called The Giving Lens.

Umbraphile (aka Eclipse Chaser) 10-point Scale 


  1. Umbraphobe: may travel long distances to avoid being in the path of a solar eclipse, even a partial one. If this is not possible, will hide indoors during the eclipse for fear of eclipse rays, vampires, the apocalypse, the dragon devouring the Sun; etc. 
  2. Penumbrahead: pays no heed to news reports of an impending eclipse, walks or drives past any eclipse viewing or gatherings, turns on headlights at the onset of solar-eclipse darkness, but doesn’t bother to look at the sky. 
  3. Average citizen: is aware when an eclipse is visible locally but may not give it much thought. Would stop to look through a telescope, or at a projected image, or pull off the road at the onset of darkness to admire the view. 
  4. Umbra-curious: makes a point of going outside during an eclipse. May have a pair of eclipse glasses, a pinhole projection device, or similar eclipse-viewing aid. Might even try to photograph the event. 
  5. Pre-Umbraphile: would take the day off to see a total solar eclipse, drive a few hours to see one, even schedule a vacation to be in the shadow as long as it’s not too inconvenient or far away. [or expensive]
  6. Umbraphile, second class: would go (or has gone) to the ends of the Earth in attempt to see totality, but has yet to earn his or her eclipse wings. 
  7. Umbraphile: can enjoy the occasional total solar eclipse without feeling the need to “chase” every single one of them. 
  8. Dyed in the Wool Umbraphile: can’t go anywhere near an eclipse without running into dozens of familiar faces. 
  9. Umbramaniac: does not let a little thing like life stand in the way of getting to that next eclipse. 
  10. Umbraholic (aka Burnt Umbra): has lost job, house, and/or family due to the obsessive pursuit of solar eclipses. 


–Tony Hoffman


I, myself, identify with number 7 – an Umbraphile but the reason I don’t always “feel the need to chase” an eclipse is generally because of financial constraints or when Life! – get’s in the way.