Early on Sunday morning as much as 99.4% of the Sun was covered by the Moon for less than a minute as seen from parts of Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
Although few international eclipse-chasers could travel to witness the event, and many living near the 27 miles-wide path of the Moon’s shadow were also thwarted by COVID-19 travel restrictions, amateur astronomers were out in force for this rare annular solar eclipse.
This special kind of partial solar eclipse was visible for just under six hours between 03:45 UTC and 09:34 UTC, from the Republic of Congo in Central Africa to Guam in the Pacific Ocean. From everywhere along the track solar eclipse glasses had to be worn.
Ethiopia was where some of the first images came from; here’s an image from the iconic Lalibela in Ethiopia, which is famous for its rock-hewn monolithic churches:
Here’s a great video from Ethiopia (scan to 23 minutes for the “ring of fire”):
And another from Oman (scan to 1 hour 43 minutes for the “ring of fire”):
While a massive swathe of the eastern hemisphere saw a partial solar eclipse, that delicate ring around the Moon was visible for between 38 and 82 seconds only from a narrow path through the Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Yemen, Oman, Pakistan, India, Tibet, China and Taiwan.
Here’s that “perfect circle” moment from Quriyat, Oman:
Minutes later, it was Pakistan’s turn:
Here’s what was going on in Ahmedabad, India, which experienced a maximum 77% partial solar eclipse:
Meanwhile, a “ring of fire” was visible in northern Rajasthan, India, from along that narrow full eclipse path:
Can you see those “broken rings” on the images above? Those are “Baily’s beads”. These beads of light are the Sun’s light coming through the mountains of the Moon. They were only visible for a few seconds before and after the “ring of fire.”
From Dehradun, India the spectacle of Baily’s beads was also visible:
To the south, New Delhi, India saw a 93% partial solar eclipse:
The word annular comes from annulus, a Latin word for “little ring”. An annular solar eclipse is caused when a New Moon is further away from Earth on its slightly elliptical orbit, so not big enough in our sky to cover the whole of the Sun.
After leaving India across the Himalayas, the “ring of fire” then crossed Tibet and China, with the last views of the ring—for about a minute—in Xiamen, China and southern Taiwan.
Nearby, Macau saw an 84% partial solar eclipse. Here’s a great amateur video of it, which demonstrates just how useful cloud can sometimes be for eclipse-viewing:
Don’t confuse an annular solar eclipse with a total solar eclipse, which occurs when a New Moon covers 100% or more of the Sun. The next total solar eclipse will happen next on December 14, 2020 as seen from a narrow “path of totality” through Chile and Argentina.
The next annular solar eclipse will occur on June 10, 2021 and be visible from Canada, Greenland and Russia. It will be the first of three solar eclipses of some kind in North America inside just four years.
Solar eclipses are predicted using an ephemeris that accurately plots where the Sun and Moon are, with respect to Earth, where the Moon’s shadow is in space, and when it’s going to strike Earth’s surface. Spherical trigonometry has been used to plot how the Moon-shadow moves across the surface in 3D.
Science aside, you owe yourself a trip to see a solar eclipse—but make sure it’s a total solar eclipse you travel to. Annular solar eclipses make great photos—as demonstrated here—but they’re not a patch on the experience of “totality.”
Disclaimer: I am editor of WhenIsTheNextEclipse.com
Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes.