In the eclipse spectacles view, you see an annual annular confusion

An oversized pair of solar eclipse glasses installed as an exhibit on a San Antonio college campus made at least one thing clear: It’s easy to confuse “annular” with “annual.”

The glasses, which are a larger replica of what the college will sell inside its gift shop, are intended to encourage the public to safely view the annular solar eclipse that is scheduled to pass over San Antonio on October 14. But the presentation refers to an “annual eclipse,” which is difficult to achieve due to the laws of physics.

So, before we dive into the science behind eclipses, let’s delve into the etymology of the word annular and annual.

Annular means, relating to, or forming a ring, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary. The word was introduced into English by the French in the Middle Ages but has its roots in the Latin word for ring, “anulus.” Spanish speakers may recognize this in the word “anillo,” the Spanish word for ring.

The October eclipse is considered annular because the moon will not completely obscure the sun as in a total eclipse. Instead, the Moon will be farther from Earth, thus appearing smaller in the sky and allowing a ring of sunlight to shine through. The “ring of fire” effect is what defines an annular eclipse.

This is the path of the October annular solar eclipse that overshadows the total solar eclipse in April 2024. The area near and northwest of San Antonio is the only spot in the world that is in the direct path of both eclipses.


Eyes on the sky: The countdown to the “Ring of Fire” solar eclipse in San Antonio begins in just one month

Annual, on the other hand, means that it occurs every year or once a year. The word also has a Latin origin: “annus”, which means “year”. Echoes of Latin are also found in the Spanish word for year, “año”. But are eclipses annual?

The Moon does not rotate in exactly the same plane as the Sun and Earth, but the objects align at least twice a year. Therefore, eclipses happen every year.

It is extremely rare for an eclipse to occur in the same place every year. For example, it takes, on average, about 375 years for a total eclipse to occur again in the same location.

Despite the typo, the glasses displayed in front of SAC’s Skopje Education Center are accurate in every other way.

“The filter material in the viewing holes is ISO 12312-2-2015 certified just like what you would use, if you purchased certified solar filter glasses from our gift shop,” the center posted on Facebook.

The gift shop at the Scobey Learning Center will be open at 6 p.m. Friday, where human-sized sunglasses will be available for sale for $3 each. The price will rise in October to $5 per piece, the center posted on Facebook.

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