Millions of skywatchers across the eastern hemisphere witnessed the most spectacular annular eclipse of the decade over the weekend. And it did not disappoint.
On Sunday, observers in parts of central Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and Taiwan were able to witness a grand spectacle that appeared at 11:45 p.m. EST Saturday and ended on Sunday at 5:34 a.m. EST.
Solar eclipses are visible only from a handful of locations where the Moon casts its shadow on Earth’s surface as it sweeps across the sky.
Unlike total solar eclipses, annular eclipses feature a unique “ring of fire” that appears at its climax.
This occurs when the Moon is farther away from Earth along its elliptical orbit, thus making it appear smaller from the vantage point of Earth. So when it crosses in front of the solar disk, it is not entirely obscured; a thin ring-shaped sliver of light appears around the Moon as the three celestial bodies align.
The event formed a perfect halo around the Moon above Uttarakhand, India, around 2:40 a.m. EST (12:10 p.m. local time), Daily Mail reported.
The eclipse was last seen in Taiwan, where hundreds gathered in open spaces in the city of Chiayi to view the spectacle with special protective glasses, Reuters reported.
“It’s an astronomical miracle,” said Elisa Chen, 29.
Fifty-six-year-old retiree Zhuang Yuhui, who traveled from nearby Taichung City to witness the event, shared, “I’m more than 50 years old, so it’s great that I could see this.
“I’m beyond excited.”
This weekend’s annular eclipse was the most spectacular in 10 years. It occurred in the middle of peak eclipse season (June and July), which meant a near-prefect alignment of the Moon and Sun—which was 99 percent obscured by the Moon, making it almost a total eclipse.
Yet, Sunday’s eclipse was even rarer, as it occurred on Earth’s longest day of the year for the northern hemisphere, a solstice, an event that hasn’t happened in at least 100 years, according to Reuters calculations based on NASA data. The next one will be in 2039, and then in 2392.
Though many were able to take in the spectacle, some hopeful eclipse watchers in different parts of the world were unable to due to weather considerations as well as pandemic lockdown restrictions.
In Nairobi in east Africa, clouds obscured the Sun at the exact moment of the eclipse, while would-be observers were prevented from trekking in search of clearer skies due to virus-containment measures.
“With the pandemic situation, we’re not able to have crowds … and get kids to look through or do stuff,” said Susan Murbana, who runs Travelling Telescope educational program in Nairobi. “We had around 50 people joining us via Zoom and then we have so many people via our Facebook live.”
Meanwhile, despite an overcast sky in New Delhi, viewers still managed to observe a partial eclipse.
In Dubai, plans to see the phenomenon were halted due to quarantine, yet viewers tuned in to the internet to witness the cosmic event on live feed.
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