(COLORADO) — Solar eclipses are some of the most awe-inspiring celestial events, capturing the imagination of people around the world. Two primary types of solar eclipses, total and annular, offer unique experiences for skywatchers. With an annular solar eclipse set for the western United States on Oct. 14, 2023, here is what to expect based on where you are and delve into the fascinating differences between these two celestial events.

Total Solar Eclipse vs. Annular Solar Eclipse

Total solar eclipses occur when the Moon passes directly in front of the Sun, completely obscuring the Sun’s bright disk. This creates a breathtaking spectacle, plunging the day into darkness and revealing the Sun’s outer atmosphere, the corona. During a total solar eclipse, the sky becomes a canvas for cosmic artistry, with stars and planets becoming visible.

During a total solar eclipse the moon’s shadow, called the umbra, reaches the earth’s surface. If the moon is far enough away from earth during the eclipse, the umbra may not reach earth and an annular eclipse will occur.

On the other hand, annular solar eclipses are characterized by the Moon covering most of the Sun, leaving a ring-like or “annulus” of the Sun’s outer edge visible. It’s more commonly called the “ring of fire.” This phenomenon occurs when the Moon is near its apogee, the farthest point from Earth in its orbit, making it appear slightly smaller in the sky.

How do they look different?

There are distinct experiences offered by the two types of eclipses. Total solar eclipses are celebrated for their mystical aura, the “diamond ring” effect, and the ethereal beauty of the corona (the sun’s outer atmosphere) that can be seen during totality. Astronomy enthusiasts often travel great distances to witness these rare events.

Annular eclipses, while less known, have a charm of their own. They showcase the cosmic ballet of celestial bodies and offer unique photographic opportunities with the ring of fire for those in the annular path. Here’s what the annular solar eclipse may look like in southwest Colorado where Cortez and the four corners will be in the annular path.

What to expect locally

Most of Colorado will be outside of the annular path and will experience a partial solar eclipse, but it’ll be a good one with most of the state seeing a greater than 80% coverage of the sun at the peak of the eclipse.

Here’s what the partial solar eclipse will look like in Colorado Springs, where maximum eclipse will cover 86% of the sun.