A Ring of Fire
Sunday’s rare solar eclipse darkened the sky from China
TOP: Observers of the eclipse protected their eyes with special eyewear. (Kyodo / NewsCom)
BOTTOM: At the eclipse’s peak, the moon covered up to 96 percent of the sun. (Joe Marino-Bill Cantrell /
UPI / NewsCom)
On Sunday, millions stood outside to catch a glimpse of a solar eclipse, visible from Asia to parts of North America. People in those parts of the world were able to see the sun slowly disappear behind the moon from late afternoon to early evening.
An eclipse occurs when a body in space that is typically visible becomes hidden from Earth’s view. A solar eclipse happens when the moon comes between Earth and the sun.
Yesterday’s event was called an annular eclipse. This type of eclipse occurs when the moon moves exactly in front of, and appears slightly smaller than, the sun. At the peak of the eclipse, 94 to 96 percent of the sun was covered.
“It’s like moving your fist in front of your eyes,” NASA scientist Jeffrey Newmark told the Reuters news agency. “You can block out the view of a whole mountain. It’s the same kind of effect.”
Over three-and-a-half hours, the eclipse phenomenon moved 8,500 miles across a narrow path from the east coast of China to West Texas. From ideal viewing locations, only a thin halo of sunlight was visible from behind the moon’s shadow. This effect led many to nickname the eclipse a “ring of fire.”
Observers in the eclipse’s path but outside the ideal viewing areas saw a partial eclipse. In a partial eclipse, only part of the sun is covered.
Anyone who wanted to observe the eclipse directly wore special eyewear to protect their eyes. Looking directly at an eclipse without special eye protection is very dangerous and can permanently damage eyesight.
THE WORLD WATCHES
People around the world gathered at the best locations to view the eclipse. In Tokyo, Japan, where an annular eclipse hasn’t occurred since 1839, it was even broadcast live on TV.
Some Native Americans observed tribal traditions during the eclipse. The Navajo tribe believes that during an eclipse, the sun dies and is reborn. “You’re supposed to stay inside,” Bonnie Charley, a Navajo woman from Arizona, told CBS News. “No eating, drinking, or sleeping. That’s for the duration of the eclipse.”
Other people marked the event in a different way. In Boulder, Colorado, astronomers hosted an eclipse party—one of the world’s largest. Thousands of people flooded the University of Colorado’s Folsom Field to watch the partial eclipse.