‘Ring of fire’ solar eclipse thrills skywatchers on longest day

Ring of fire is seen during the solar eclipse at Budai township, Chiayi county, Taiwan, June 21, 2020. REUTERS/Ann Wang

Skywatchers along a narrow band from west Africa to the Arabian Peninsula, India and the Far East witnessed a dramatic “ring of fire” solar eclipse Sunday.

So-called annular eclipses occur when the Moon — passing between Earth and the Sun — is not quite close enough to our planet to completely obscure sunlight, leaving a thin ring of the solar disc visible.

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

Sunday’s eclipse arrived on the northern hemisphere’s longest day of the year — the summer solstice — when the North Pole is tilted most directly towards the Sun.

It was first visible in northeastern Republic of Congo from 5:56 local time (04:56 GMT) just a few minutes after sunrise.

That was the point of maximum duration, with the blackout lasting a minute and 22 seconds.

Arcing eastward across Africa and Asia, it reached “maximum eclipse” — with a perfect solar halo around the Moon — over Uttarakhand, India near the Sino-Indian border at 12:10 local time (0640 GMT).