Unlike the vigorous storms that march across the Pacific Ocean and slam into California with all their might, stargazing sometimes can seem a little uneventful for many of us without a telescope. However, that’s about to change.
A rare annular eclipse will occur today. About a 200-mile-wide path of the moon’s shadow will begin its journey over China at sunrise and race across the Pacific, reaching the rugged Northern California coastline centered near Eureka at 5:10 this evening.
The moon’s shadow will cross California in a diagonal, southwesterly line from Eureka along the coast to Redding in the northern Sacramento Valley, then on to Chico before heading into Nevada near Reno. The moon’s shadow will reach Texas right at about sunset and should produce some amazingly beautiful photographic opportunities.
For 100 miles on either side of that line, the eclipse will be annular. An annular eclipse occurs when the moon lines up perfectly with the sun, but is too far from Earth to completely cover the sun as it does during a total eclipse.
So, why are some eclipses annular and others total? The moon’s orbit around Earth is really an ellipse, a shape that can be thought of as a “stretched out” circle or an oval.
At perigee — closest to Earth — the moon comes within 225,000 miles of us. At apogee — farthest from Earth — it’s 250,000 miles away. Today, the moon will be at apogee and that’s enough of a difference so that the moon will only cover about 88 percent of the sun as seen from Redding.
During an annular eclipse, a spectacular “ring of fire” shines in the sky along the eclipse’s path as the moon forms a “black hole” in the center of the sun. Even though most of the sun is covered by the moon, the ring of sunlight during annularity is blindingly bright.
Please protect your eyes while viewing it. To view this eclipse directly, use approved solar filters or No. 14 welder’s goggles. Welder’s glasses are numbered from 1-14; No. 14 is the darkest and is the only one dark enough for safe solar viewing.
You also can project the image. Get a piece of cardboard, punch a pin hole in it, and then angle the cardboard to project the sun’s light on another piece of cardboard or another flat object.
The next total solar eclipse visible from the Lower 48 will occur Aug. 21, 2017. The last annular eclipse to take place in the United States occurred in 1994, and the next annular eclipse will happen in 2023.
Eclipse-viewing might be affected by clouds. An upper-level trough will approach the Northern California coastline this afternoon with cloudiness expected to increase from the northwest this evening. The speed of this system and extent of clouds will be critical for viewing the annular solar eclipse. However, skies should be mostly clear toward the Chico, Lake Tahoe and Reno areas.
In San Luis Obispo, a partial eclipse will begin at 5:21 p.m. with maximum eclipse at 6:36 p.m. It ends at 7:42 p.m., with sunset shortly after that. The farther north you go, more of the sun will be obscured.
Gentle offshore winds this morning will produce clear skies and warmer conditions across the Central Coast today.
Today’s maximum temperatures should reach the high 50s to the low 60s along the northwesterly facing beaches (Morro Bay, Los Osos, Montaña De Oro and the Nipomo Mesa); the mid- to high 60s along the westerly facing beaches (Pismo Beach); and the low to mid-70s along the southwesterly facing beaches (Cayucos, Avila and Shell Beach). Maximum temperatures should reach the high 70s in the coastal valleys and the low 90s in the North County.
A trough of low pressure will approach the Central Coast tonight with increasing northwesterly (onshore) winds and low clouds along the immediate coast. The marine layer should hold off long enough until the annular solar eclipse is completed at 7:42 p.m. However, higher clouds across parts of Northern California could prevent some from viewing the eclipse.
Increasing coastal low clouds and fog are forecast Monday morning. This coastal stratus will produce cooler conditions throughout San Luis Obispo County.
Batten down the hatches. A dry cold front will pass the Central Coast late Monday night with increasing mid- to high-level clouds. This cold front along with a strengthening 1,032-millibar Eastern Pacific High will set up a steep pressure gradient along the Central California coast. This condition will produce moderate gale- to fresh gale-force (32- to 46-mph) northwesterly winds along the coast during the afternoon starting Tuesday and continuing through Thursday. These onshore winds will keep temperatures slightly below normal.
A late-season area of low pressure could drop south across the Bay Area and deliver rain as far south as Monterey Bay. Temperatures are expected to remain below seasonal over the Memorial Day weekend, with continued rain or showers across Northern California through Memorial Day.
Today’s surf report
Today’s 3- to 5-foot northwesterly (310-degree deep-water) sea and swell (with a 7- to 9-second period) will remain at this height and period through Tuesday morning.
Moderate gale- to fresh gale-force (32- to 46-mph) northwesterly winds along the Central California coast starting Tuesday afternoon will produce “Victory at Sea Conditions.” These winds will generate a 5- to 7-foot northwesterly (320-degree deep-water) sea and swell (with a 4- to 8-second period) Tuesday afternoon through Wednesday morning, increasing to 8 to 10 feet (with a 7- to 11-second period) Wednesday afternoon through Thursday.
This northwesterly sea and swell will decrease to 6 to 8 feet Friday, and continue lowering through Memorial Day.
No significant Southern Hemisphere swell events are expected at this time.
Seawater temperatures will range between 51 and 53 degrees through Monday, decreasing to 49 to 51 degrees Tuesday and will remain at this level through Friday.
Hike the spectacular Pecho Coast Trail to the Point San Luis Lighthouse.
The trail to the Point San Luis Lighthouse is open to 20 hikers on Wednesdays and 40 hikers on Saturdays, with a departure time of 9 a.m. and a return time of 1 p.m. The hike to the Point San Luis Lighthouse is 3.75 miles and moderately strenuous.
Reservations are strongly encouraged to avoid being turned away at the trailhead.
Reservations must be made two weeks in advance.
At the Light Station, an admission fee of $5 per adult will be required of those accessing the Lighthouse Head keeper’s quarter’s tour. This fee supports the work of the Point San Luis Lighthouse Keepers’ restoring, maintaining and operating visitor services at this historic site. To make your reservation, go to: www.pge.modwest .com/pgereservations/.
John Lindsey, meteorologist for PG&E and local weather expert, has lived along the Central Coast for more than 25 years.To subscribe to his daily weather forecast or ask him a question, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.