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US to witness rare 'ring of fire' solar eclipse on Saturday

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Residents in and visitors to the Americas can expect to witness two rare celestial events over the next several months, beginning with a "ring of fire" solar eclipse on Saturday.

A ring of fire eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the Earth and the sun, according to the US space agency Nasa.

Saturday's partial ring of fire eclipse is set to occur before a total solar eclipse in April, officials said.

The eclipse derives its name from the moon's placement in front of the larger sun, creating an image resembling a fiery ring. The moon appears smaller and thus does not block out the entire sun when it passes in front - because it is further away that it would be during a total solar eclipse, Nasa added.

Saturday's ring of fire will be visible to those in a path between Oregon and Texas. In the US, the event will begin at 9.13am PT along the Oregon coast and end in Texas at 12.03pm CT.

The largest US city in the eclipse's path is San Antonio. The so-called Alamo City as well as other communities in the eclipse's path are preparing to welcome a surge of visitors.

Parts of Puerto Rico, Hawaii and Alaska will be able to see a partial eclipse but will not see the ring of fire effect, Nasa officials said.

Next year will offer more people an opportunity to witness an equally spectacular solar eclipse. Sky gazers will be able to take in a total solar eclipse on 8 April.

The "path of totality", or the area where the sun will be completely covered by the moon, is 115 miles (185km) wide, stretching from northern Mexico to eastern Canada. The path will cross 13 US states: Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.

Nasa says another total solar eclipse will not be visible in the US until 23 August 2044.

The agency has urged those trying to get a glimpse of a solar eclipse to wear specialized solar filters for safety.

"It is never safe to look directly at the sun without proper eye protection," it said.

It is only safe to remove special filtered glasses once the moon completely blocks the visible surface of the sun.

The event could affect animal life since it will appear to be dusk; it will also momentarily cool temperatures. Both events offer scientists opportunities to study the sun and how it interacts with the Earth.

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