Rare ‘Ring of Fire’ Solar Eclipse to Dim Africa, Asia

Skywatchers in a narrow band from West Africa to the Arabian Peninsula, India and Southern China can witness Sunday's most spectacular "ring of fire" solar eclipse to the shadow of the Planet in years to come.

Annular eclipses arise when the Moon — crossing between Earth and the Sun — is not near enough to our world to totally block sunlight, making a small rim of the solar disk noticeable.

They occur every year or two, and can only be seen from a narrow pathway across the planet.

Remarkably, the eclipse on Sunday arrives on the northern hemisphere’s longest day of the year — the summer solstice — when Earth’s north pole is tilted most directly towards the Sun.

The “ring of fire” will first be seen in the northeastern Republic of Congo at 5:56 local time (04:56 GMT) just a few minutes after sunrise.

This is the point of maximum duration, with the blackout lasting 1 minute and 22 seconds.

Arcing east across Asia and Africa, the "maximum eclipse"—with a perfect solar halo around the Moon — will be reached over Uttarakhand , India near the Sino-Indian border at 12:10 local time (6:40 GMT).

Less impressive, though less long-lived: the same conjunction of Planet, Moon, and Sun can only be observable for 38 seconds.

“The annular eclipse is visible from about two percent of Earth surface,” Florent Delefie, an astronomer and the Paris Observatory, told AFP.

“It’s a bit like switching from a 500-watt to a 30-watt light bulb,” he added. “It’s a cold light, and you don’t see as well.”

– Good weather key –

Animals can get spooked — birds will sometimes go back to sleep, and cows will return to the barn.

The full eclipse will be visible somewhere on Earth during just under four hours, and one of the last places to see a partially hidden Sun in Taiwan before its path heads out into the Pacific.

People hundreds of kilometers on either side of the centreline across 14 countries will also see light drain from the day, but not the “ring of fire”.

Weather conditions are critical for viewing.

“Good weather is the key to successful eclipse viewing,” astrophysicist Fred Espenak, an expert on eclipse prediction, commented on the NASA Eclipse website. “Better to see a shorter eclipse from the clear sky than a longer eclipse under clouds.”

A solar eclipse always occurs about two weeks before or after a lunar eclipse, when the Moon moves into Earth’s shadow. Lunar eclipses are visible from about half of Earth’s surface.

A second lunar eclipse will take effect across South America on December 14, 2020. Because the Moon is going to be a little closer to Earth, it will completely block the Sun's light.

The direction of this eclipse would take less than 100 minutes to travel around the globe.

And if the day is obscured, gazing at a naked eye solar eclipse is risky.

Sunglasses — which don’t filter out UV rays — do not offer any protection, Delefie warned.

“The Sun is so bright that even when there’s only a tiny portion visible, it is still dangerous for the eyes,” he said.

Source: AFP

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