Annular Solar Eclipse Viewing: May 20

Sunday, May 20, 2012: ... A late-afternoon Annular Eclipse of the Sun. . .

NASA scientists, amateur astronomers, and the National Park Service will team up to share their telescopes and knowledge with park visitors... followed by an evening South Rim Star Party.

Dr. Tyler Nordgren, Univ. of Redlands

Grand Canyon National Park lies in the path of a rare annular eclipse of the sun, late in the afternoon of May 20, 2012.

The western 2/3 of the country will see at least a partial eclipse prior to sunset, but here at Grand Canyon we will see the moon pass fully between us and the sun, leaving only a ring of sun visible around it. (Unfortunately, at this point in its elliptical orbit the moon will be too far away to entirely block our view of the sun, so this will not be a total eclipse.)

Approximate Timing of the eclipse:

o 5:28 p.m.-partial eclipse begins

o 6:34 p.m. - annular eclipse begins

o 6:39 p.m. - annular eclipse ends

o 7:32 p.m. - sun sets while still partially eclipsed

Additional South Rim Activities

Before the eclipse, at 11:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m., (South Rim only): NASA scientists will offer a free program about eclipses and the latest NASA research relating to the sun and moon. Seating is limited: free tickets will be available on a first-come, first-served basis starting at 8:00 a.m. on May 20 at the Grand Canyon Visitor Center.

o 8:45 p.m. until at least 11 p.m. or later: Public Star Party - free telescope viewing of the night sky - behind the Grand Canyon Visitor Center (Village shuttle buses run until 10 p.m.)

park volunteer manning telescope
Park volunteer manning telescope

Nancy K. Varga

To view the eclipse with National Park Service rangers:

Check posted signs upon arrival in the park for location of assisted viewing activities.

On the South Rim, amateur astronomers and NASA scientists will share their telescopes with the public both during the eclipse and again after dark for a one-night "Star Party.

On both rims, at posted locations rangers will use pinhole cameras and/or "solar projection" to show additional images of the eclipsed sun, and will have a limited number of eclipse glasses to share.

Questions ? Contact us:
South Rim: Park Ranger Marker Marshall
North Rim: Supervisory Park Ranger Robin Tellis

To sign up as an amateur astronomer for this event, coordinated by the Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association Contact Jim O'Connor

viewing eclipse - binocular method
Solar projection method.

To view the eclipse on your own:

You can watch the eclipse unfold from any Grand Canyon viewpoint that offers a clear view of the western horizon (since the annular portion of the eclipse occurs within an hour of sunset). Any of the more famous sunset locations will do.


Three safe ways to observe the eclipse on your own:
  • Use "eclipse shades" or similar solar viewing card or glasses, or welders' glass #14 or higher. Inexpensive solar viewing cards will be sold at all Grand Canyon Association bookstores as the eclipse approaches - WHILE SUPPLIES LAST. They can also be bought in advance, from various online sources. Give your eyes a break every little while, as instructed on the cards.
  • Make a simple "pinhole camera." An easy way to do this is to bring 2 pieces of white cardboard or posterboard. Cut a hole in the middle of one, about an inch square, and cover it with aluminum foil. Use a pin to poke a tiny hole in the aluminum foil. Facing away from the sun, hold up the two pieces of cardboard so that the sun's image shines through the pinhole onto the other sheet. This is one of the safest ways to observe the sun.
  • Use "solar projection" with a pair of binoculars or a spotting scope but MAKE SURE NO ONE LOOKS THROUGH THE EYEPIECE DIRECTLY. Hold the binoculars out in front of you so that the wide end is pointed toward the sun and the narrow end toward a white surface such as an index card. If you hold the binoculars so as to minimize the binoculars' shadow, and hold the card several inches away, the sun's image can be projected onto the card. AVOID CONTINUOUS USE FOR MORE THAN A MINUTE AT A TIME, TO PREVENT OVERHEATING OF THE OPTICS. With binoculars, this means alternately covering up one side or the other.
NASA Eclipse Map May 20 2012



Click here to view a diagram showing the parts of the Earth
from which the eclipse is visible.

Is This Annular Eclipse Worth Seeing ?

Amateur Astronomers give this rule of thumb for solar eclipse viewing:

  • A total eclipse is worth flying anywhere to see;
  • An annular eclipse such as this is worth driving to or perhaps a short flight;
  • A partial eclipse is worth looking at.

NASA photos of 2004 Transit of Venus
Transit of Venus (2004)


Get ready for the Transit of Venus on June 5 !

The afternoon of Tuesday, June 5, 2012 will be the last chance in our lifetimes to see Venus pass directly between ourselves and the sun. (There will not be another Venus tranist until December 11, 2117)

On the South Rim, join park rangers and amateur astronomers with their solar telescopes to view the transit. Learn more...

Grand Canyon Star Party Logo Copyright Joe Bergeron
Logo Copyright Joe Bergeron

Grand Canyon's 22nd Annual Star Party will be held on both South and North Rims from June 16-23, 2012.

For eight days in June, park visitors will explore the wonders of the night sky on Grand Canyon National Park's South Rim with the Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association and on the North Rim with the Saguaro Astronomy Club of Phoenix.

Amateur astronomers from across the country will volunteer their expertise and will offer free nightly astronomy programs and free telescope viewing. LEARN MORE HERE

Last updated: March 1, 2021

Park footer

Contact Info

Mailing Address:

PO Box 129
Grand Canyon, AZ 86023



Contact Us