Millions of Asian and US sky watchers watched in awe as the annular eclipse crossed the sky for the first time after nearly 18 years on Sunday. While doctors have warned of eye damages from improper viewing, the event holds a social and global significance for eclipse lovers.
The annular has been derived from Latin, which means a small ring. During an annular eclipse, the moon is too far away in its elliptical orbit to cover the sun completely, as seen from the Earth. As a result when the moon moves in front of the sun, its disk leaves the edges of the sun visible, while the rest of its is over shadowed by the moon. The visible edges form the shape of a little ring burning with fire.
Millions of people joined the viewing parties held in Reno, Oakland and at several other places to enjoy one of the most spectacular and rare views of their lives. The crowd cheered and yelled as the moon crossed the sun forming a blazing halo of light. “That’s got to be the prettiest thing I’ve ever seen”, said one of the sky watcher as he starred up mesmerized with the view.
Officials at several places encouraged the people to watch the ring of fire through organized events to avoid any damage to their eyes, since the eclipse could not be viewed with a naked eye due to the intensity of the blazing light. Residents of Redding, California, celebrated with barbecue parties, watching the event through safety glasses and specially designed solar telescopes.
The eclipse not just brought a dramatic change in the visibility of the objects, but also turned the California afternoon a bit cooler, with the sun beams filtering through the spaces between the tree leaves before reaching the ground and forming crescent shaped patterns.
In Japan and China, similar events were arranged at schools and parks, with a live broadcast of the eclipse aired on TV since such an eclipse was not seen there since 1839.
An astronomer at the SETI institute, Seth Shostak said the eclipse experience is going to leave a long lasting effect on people who were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of it. "This can get people to look up from their little anthill lives, and maybe get a sense of the bigger cosmic cycles that are going on all the time over our heads," said Alan MacRobert, a senior editor at Sky & Telescope magazine.