Annular Solar Eclipse to Hit Northern California This Weekend

For the first time since 1994, Northern California residents will have a chance to witness a rare annular solar eclipse on Sunday.

Those living in the Bay Area can drive just a few hours and catch a glimpse at this rare phenomenon.

Annular eclipses differ from normal solar eclipses since they have a different effect on the moon, where instead of completely blocking out the sun, it leaves a "ring of fire" surrounding the moon's dark silhouette.

Instead of the moon moving directly in front of the sun, the way it does in a regular eclipse, it will be slightly off center and form a C shape instead of a complete O, according to experts.

"This is probably the most easily accessible (annular solar eclipse) for people in the Bay Area in their remaining lifetimes. To see the complete ring is rare and they should do it," said Alex Filippenko, a UC astronomy professor urging residents to take advantage of living so close to it.

In an annular eclipse the moon is far enough from the Earth to not fully block the view of the sun, therefore a slim ring of sunlight is still visible.

It normally begins in Asia, then travels across the Pacific Ocean to the West Coast of the U.S. near the California-Oregon border. Next, it makes its way southeast through Eureka, Reno, parts of Utah and Arizona and eventually concludes in Lubbock, Texas.

The moon is expected to cover around 84 percent of the sun in the Bay Area and the "ring of fire" effect will not fully form.

Those interested in viewing the eclipse should purchase specially made solar eclipse glasses that are available at science supply stores, some museums and online.

Looking directly at the eclipse without protection could be hazardous and cause permanent eye damage.