'Ring of fire' solar eclipse seen in Africa, Asia

World Sunday 21/June/2020 15:01 PM
By: Times News Service
'Ring of fire' solar eclipse seen in Africa, Asia

Sky-gazers along on a narrow band stretching from west Africa to the Arabian Peninsula, India and the Far East on Sunday witnessed a dramatic "ring of fire" solar eclipse.

The ring-shaped "annular" eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the Earth and the sun at a distance not quite close enough to the planet to obscure all sunlight, leaving a thin ring of light from the sun visible in a striking spectacle.

Annular eclipses can be seen every year or two along a narrow pathway across the globe. They are only visible from about 2% of the Earth's surface, Paris Observatory astronomer Florent Delefie told a news agency.

The eclipse took place on the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere, when the Earth's north pole is tilted most directly towards the sun.

First appearance in Republic of Congo

The "ring of fire" first appeared in the northeastern Republic of Congo at 5:56 local time (04:56 UTC), just a few minutes after sunrise.

This marked the eclipse's maximum duration point, with the blackout lasting 1 minute and 22 seconds.

It then moved eastward across Africa and Asia before becoming a "maximum eclipse"—a perfect solar halo around the Moon—over Uttarakhand, India near the border with China at 12:10 local time (06:40 UTC).

The exact alignment of the Earth, moon and the sun was also visible for 38 seconds.

Clouds spoil view for some

In the Kenyan city of Nairobi, a cloudy sky at the exact moment the moon hid the sun meant witnesses saw only a partial eclipse.

The full eclipse was visible for a period of almost four hours at successive locations. Taiwan was the last location to see the partially hidden Sun before it ended over the Pacific Ocean.

For hundreds of kilometers on either side of the eclipse's path, people experienced daylight grow dimmer, but could not see the "ring of fire."

Solar eclipses occur around two weeks before or after lunar eclipses, when the moon moves into the shadow of the Earth.

The second solar eclipse this year will happen on December 14 over South America. This time the moon will be closer to the Earth and will block out the sun's light completely.