The University of Alabama kicks off its homecoming game Saturday against Arkansas at 11 a.m. Just a few minutes later, at 11:13 a.m. CT, an annular sun eclipse enters the continental United States on the Oregon coast.
While the eclipse with its "ring of fire" will be visible over a 110-mile-wide swath moving from Oregon through Texas, the rest of the continental U.S. will see only a partial eclipse and no ring of fire. That "rest of the U.S." includes Tuscaloosa and Bryant-Denny Stadium.
The obscurity of the sun by the moon, up to 60% covered in Tuscaloosa, is not expected to have any effect on the 'Bama game, no more so than a heavy cloud cover. The full annular eclipse will be slightly less than five minutes, but a gradually increasing cover of the sun will precede the totality, and a gradual return of the full sun will follow. The full show will last close to an hour and a half.
Around noontime is the midpoint of the eclipse, likely in the second quarter of the Bama game. Chances are, the players and fans will not notice anything unless someone tips them off that the eclipse is ongoing.
Fans should not look at the sun during and around the eclipse without "eclipse glasses" or other authorized protection. Ordinary sunglasses are not adequate protection to look directly at the sun. It is expected that the dozens of vendors of football swag who are outside of every game will include eclipse glasses in their wares.
An annular eclipse differs from the better-known total eclipse. The annular eclipse occurs when the moon is close to its farthest point from Earth when passing in front of the sun. The moon covers only most of the sun, leaving an outer ring of the sun still visible, called a "ring of fire." In contrast, a total eclipse occurs when the moon is near its closest point to Earth. The passage of the moon covers the totality of the sun. Near complete darkness. No ring of fire.
It would be interesting if Alabama and coach Nick Saban could use the game eclipse to their advantage, maybe to provide cover for a long pass play or two. That type of use of an eclipse was done in a well-known literary passage:
In his novel "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court," Mark Twain set up the scenario. Twain's character was in serious legal trouble and about to be hanged. Knowing when an eclipse was about to occur, he threatened the authorities to hide the sun. When the eclipse occurred, and the sun disappeared as threatened, the frightened authorities agreed to cancel the execution if the condemned man would bring the sun back. He appeared to do so as the eclipse gradually ended.
One reason Coach Saban and Bama cannot try to use the eclipse in some way is simply that it is too far away. Playing in Austin, Texas, or College Station, Texas, it would have been in the arsenal of tools.
Jim Zeigler is a retired Alabama Public Service Commissioner and State Auditor. He can be reached for comment at [email protected].
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