The final solar eclipse of the decade, which produced a stunning and photogenic “ring of fire” around the moon, occurred on Thursday, bringing out droves of onlookers across Asia and the Middle East, where it was most visible.
The eclipse — officially called an annular solar eclipse, in which the new moon passes in front of and partly obscures the sun, leaving a ring of light around its edges — began to appear on Thursday afternoon. It was visible from parts of Saudi Arabia and several cities in southern India, as well as in Singapore, Indonesia and Guam, according to timeanddate.com, a website that tracks eclipses around the world.
The eclipse reached its maximum phase at approximately 5:17 a.m. Coordinated Universal Time on Thursday, or just after midnight Wednesday Eastern Standard Time. Several websites live-streamed the event.
A partial eclipse, in which the moon covers only a small part of the sun’s disk, was visible in several cities including New Delhi and Doha, Qatar, the site said.
To see an annular eclipse, one must be in the right place at the right time, Rick Fienberg, an astronomer with the American Astronomical Society, said on Thursday. “In the case of an annular eclipse, it’s an unusual thing to see the sun turn from bright disk to a ring, and to know that the moon is going across it,” he said. “You can actually see the solar system in motion.”
According to timeanddate.com, an annular solar eclipse begins with a partial eclipse as the moon makes its way across the sun’s disk. Once it’s centered, a glowing ring appears. The moon continues to glide over the sun until it no longer overlaps at all.
The entire eclipse lasts two to three hours, Dr. Fienberg said, noting that the moon is fully within the disk of the sun for about 15 minutes. Solar filters are required to view it, he added.
“Because the sun is never completely blotted out, it doesn’t get particularly dark,” he said. “It would be possible for somebody who wasn’t paying close attention to miss the fact that an annular eclipse just happened. They might not even notice.”
The next annular solar eclipse will occur on June 21, 2020, and it should be visible from parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Pakistan, India and China, timeanddate.com said.
After that, annular eclipses are predicted to occur in 2021, 2023 and 2024.
Asked why eclipses draw so much attention, Dr. Fienberg said people look to the sky when there is an unusual event happening. “Although eclipses aren’t rare, in the sense of, like, you have to live a whole lifetime for a chance to see it,” he said, “to see an annular or total solar eclipse, you do have to be in the right place at the right time.”