Tokyo: Millions of sky gazers watched as a rare `ring of fire` solar eclipse crossed over parts of Asia and North America, early Monday morning.
An annular solar eclipse occurs when the Sun, the Moon and the Earth are exactly in line, but the apparent size of the Moon is smaller than that of the Sun, therefore only a part of the sun gets blocked. Hence the Sun appears like an annulus (ring), surrounding the outline of the Moon.
The eclipse was first visible over in southern China, which then moved across the Pacific. Travelling on diagonal path, the eclipse began its way southeast across central Nevada, southern Utah and northern Arizona, and New Mexico, and was expected to disappear in Texas with the sunset.
While the eclipse was expected to follow a narrow 13,700-kilometre (8,500-mile) path and last about 3.5 hours, the "ring of fire" phenomenon was only expected to last about 4.5 minutes, depending on location.
In Japan, "eclipse tours" were arranged at schools and parks, on pleasure boats and even private airplanes. Similar events were held in China and Taiwan as well.
The eclipse was broadcast live on TV in Tokyo, where such an eclipse hasn`t been visible since 1839. The Taipei Astronomical Museum opened its doors at dawn and Hong Kong`s Space Museum set up solar-filtered telescopes outside its building on the Kowloon waterfront.
A light rain fell on Tokyo as the eclipse began, but the clouds thinned as it reached its peak, providing near perfect conditions.
Hong Kong sky watchers weren`t so lucky, as heavy clouds obstructed the view, as the eclipse was underway.
"Ring of Fire" eclipses are not as dramatic as a total eclipse, when the disk of the sun is entirely blocked by the moon. The moon is too far from Earth and appears too small in the sky to blot out the sun completely.
With Agency inputs