A shimmering ring of light flashed into view yesterday in parts of the eastern hemisphere as the moon drifted across the face of the sun in a rare eclipse on the longest day of the year.
The path of the eclipse spanned East and South Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Most locations saw only a partial eclipse, with just a handful witnessing the “ring of fire.”
Unlike in a total eclipse, the moon in an annular, or ring-like, eclipse is unable to completely cover the sun, leaving a thin halo of light at its maximum phase.
Such an eclipse happens when the moon is farther away in its elliptical orbit around the Earth, appearing smaller as a result.
Hundreds of skywatchers gathered in an open space in Chiayi City, one of the locations in Asia where the annular eclipse was visible.
“I’m more than 50 years old, so it’s great that I could see this,” said a retiree surnamed Chuang (莊), 56, who traveled to Chiayi from Taichung. “I’m beyond excited.”
In Chiayi, the eclipse started at 2:49pm and ended at 5:25pm, with the complete “ring of fire” taking place for less than a minute at 4:14pm, when 99 percent of the sun’s surface was blocked.
Many spectators elsewhere in Taiwan braced scorching temperatures to watch the rare annular solar eclipse by flocking to museums, parks and schools for guided solar eclipse watching or simply observed the event from street corners, using protective eye gear.
The momentum was especially high in Tainan and Kaohsiung, and Yunlin, Chiayi, Nantou, Hualien and Taitung counties, as well as the outlying islands of Penghu and Kinmen, as people there could witness the entire process of the eclipse.
In Taipei, where only a partial solar eclipse was visible, about 10,000 people were estimated to have visited the Taipei Astronomical Museum, museum officials said.
Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Internet users watched the eclipse streamed online by various government and academic outlets.
An annular solar eclipse covering such a large percentage of the sun will not be visible in Taiwan until June 28, 2215, the museum said.
In Chinese and Japanese lore, it is believed that a dog in the sky named Tiangou (天狗) eats the sun, causing the eclipse.
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