Nature’s most mind-blowing milliseconds: the eclipse’s Diamond Ring explained

Get ready for a powerful flash of sunlight you will remember for the rest of your life

Eclipse-chasing is all about maxing-out the minutes and seconds you will stand under the darkness of a Moon-shadow and experience Totality.

But the most beautiful moment will last less than a second.

Welcome to the Diamond Ring, nature’s most mind-blowing milliseconds – and viewable on August 21.

About 10 seconds before Totality (or Second Contact, as it’s also known), beads of the only remaining visible sunlight pour through the valleys of the Moon. These are known as Baily’s Beads after the astronomer who first described them.

And then it happens. Just before the Sun is completely blocked, the beads reduce in size, and the very last rays signal the moment you can take off your solar safety glasses to see a magical Diamond Ring around the Moon. Blink and you’ll miss it – but there’s another chance because the best is yet to come.

At the exact same moment the first Diamond Ring fades, Totality begins; the ‘hole in the sky’ is revealed and the Sun’s mesmerizing corona is on show.

About two minutes-or-so later – depending on how close you are to the centerline of the Path of Totality – the Moon moves away from the Sun and the entire spectacle goes into reverse.

Baily’s Beads appear on the opposite side of the Sun until there’s a powerful flash of yellow, or even pink, light from the emerging Sun’s rays, and the famed Diamond Ring explodes, then fades; Third Contact is achieved.

The Diamond Ring is gone, Totality is over, and you just saw nature at its most awesome. And THAT is why people travel across the world to see a Total Solar Eclipse.

Photo credit: & Evgenij Kursai