On the final Saturday of 2023’s Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, the usual parade of hot air balloons overhead will have a new neighbor in the New Mexico sky: an annular eclipse that turns the sun into a ring of light around the moon for a few minutes.

To celebrate this unique confluence of events in the Duke City on Saturday, Oct. 14, New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science (NMMNHS) is shooting for the stars and partnering with NASA, NOAA, and the Polarimeter to Unify the Corona and Heliosphere (PUNCH), which handles outreach related to a forthcoming NASA mission, for a series of fun, family-friendly Space Science events all over town to ensure that visitors and Burqueños alike can experience this celestial phenomenon safely and enjoyably!

Albuquerque is not only the ideal spot to witness this annular eclipse, but it also happens to be occurring during one of the city’s busiest weekends of the year,” NMMNHS Executive Director Anthony Fiorillo, said. “This is a unique opportunity, and our museum is uniquely positioned as one of New Mexico’s leading centers of space science research to lead the charge on helping our community learn about and enjoy this marvel.”

What is an annular eclipse?

A shot of the 2012 annular eclipse over New Mexico. A similar eclipse will occur on Saturday, October 14, 2023.
A shot of the 2012 annular eclipse over New Mexico. A similar eclipse will occur on Saturday, October 14, 2023. Courtesy of NMMNHS

An annular eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the Earth and the sun but, due to its apparent size and location in its orbit, doesn’t completely obscure it. Consequently, the sun appears as a bright ring surrounding the dark orb of the moon when viewed using appropriate eye protection.

The eclipse will begin at approximately 9:15 a.m., while annularity starts at 10:34 a.m. With Balloon Fiesta’s second-to-last mass ascension slated to begin around 7:00 a.m. (weather permitting), the combination of hot-air balloons and an annular eclipse should be a special sight to behold!

Because the sun is not fully obscured, there is no point during an annular eclipse where it is safe to look directly at the sun without proper eye protection.

Eclipse events in Albuquerque

In the weeks leading up to the eclipse, the museum will host a full slate of activities to get visitors ready for the big day. Every Saturday in September, the museum will host workshops that give guests an opportunity to make their own eclipse masks. Additionally, the Space Science team will host a series of educational talks about the eclipse in the Planetarium, Powered by META, focusing on why eclipses happen, what is special about this one, and most importantly, how to view it safely.

These talks will be included with museum or planetarium admission and will be held on different days of the week and different times to make it easier for everyone to attend! A full schedule of talks is available at nmnaturalhistory.org/calendar. Come early and catch a screening of Eclipse: The Sun Revealed in the planetarium every day from noon to 1:00 p.m. Then, during the week leading up to the eclipse, the museum will offer family-friendly afternoons featuring hands-on activities and short talks by NASA and NOAA solar scientists. More details about these afternoons are available at nmnaturalhistory.org.

On the morning of Saturday, October 14, head to the museum for opportunities to watch the eclipse and much more! Inside, viewing monitors will broadcast the view from museum’s solar telescope and observatory and other live coverage, offering a unique viewpoint of the phenomenon as it unfolds. Other events that day include a continuous planetarium presentation about the eclipse (free with museum admission), hands-on family-friendly activities inside the museum, including our one-of-a-kind lunar floor map, and visits from NASA, NOAA, PUNCH, and Center of Science and Industry scientists and educators.

Additionally, the NMMNHS Space Science team will have a booth set up at the Balloon Museum to answer questions and hand out eclipse glasses and fun educational activities. For a full round-up of the events being supported by NMMNHS and other New Mexico of Cultural Affairs divisions, visit NMEclipse.org.