2012 Annular eclipse over New Mexico (Image: Kevin Baird)

We will never, ever tell you to stare at the sun. Fortunately, we have a far better way for you to get a glimpse of the upcoming ring-of-fire solar eclipse.

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A solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between Earth and the sun, temporarily blocking out its light. A ring-of-fire eclipse is, more prosaically, also just called an annular eclipse, to distinguish it from a total eclipse of the sun. As the name suggests, during a total eclipse the path of the moon totally covers the sun during its peak, like so:

Total solar eclipse (Image: NASA)

During an annular eclipse—although the moon blocks out most of the sun—the moon’s path lets a bit of sun stay visible through the whole thing. That means that, during the peak, it looks like someone had punched straight through the sun’s center with a cookie cutter, leaving only the outer ring behind.

A composite of the 2012 annular eclipse over the grand canyon (Image: Grand Canyon National Park)
2016 annular solar eclipse path (Image: A. T. Sinclair - NASA)

The ring-of-fire eclipse taking place in the early Thursday morning hours will be visible primarily over central Africa, with the island of Madagascar also getting a pretty good look. If you do happen to be in one of the areas, don’t simply look up. Instead, you should use a special solar filter or NASA has some instructions on how to make your own DIY projector with which to watch the whole thing without searing your retinas.

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If you’re not in the viewing area, there’s also an excellent livefeed from Slooh. Slooh’s feed, which you can find right here, will be starting up very early Thursday morning at 2:45 am EDT.

If it’s anything close to this view of the 2012 ring-of-fire eclipse taken near New Mexico, it will be well worth getting up for.