A ‘ring of fire’ solar eclipse helps bid farewell to the year

ring of fire

People across Asia gathered to watch an annular solar eclipse, also known as a 'ring of fire'. The natural phenomenon delighted millions of  viewers across the eastern hemisphere, including astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS). The eclipse took place on Thursday 26 December. 

The eclipse began in Saudi Arabia, with the moon passing in front of the sun. The moon covered the centre of the sun creating the 'ring of fire' effect. This was the last solar eclipse of both 2019 and the current decade.

An ‘annular eclipse’ occurs when the Moon covers the centre of the sun, leaving a thin bright ring visible. Although these kinds of eclipses happen almost every year, they are only visible from certain parts of the world each time and it can take decades before the same pattern repeats itself. It will be at least 40 years before another annular solar eclipse can be seen from Singapore and surrounding areas.

The eclipse began at dawn over the Arabian Peninsula, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman. It then crossed the Arabian Sea to India and Sri Lanka. It was then visible from the Bay of Bengal and Southeast Asia, crossing Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, before ending at sunset over the United States territory of Guam.

The regions from southern Siberia to the Horn of Africa and northwest Australia to Japan and northeast Asia saw different stages of a partial solar eclipse.

On social media:

Social networks were flooded with photos and videos of the spectacular. Twitter users shared their snapshots using hashtags such as #solareclipse and #RingOfFire:

"This is what today's annular solar eclipse (when the Moon is in line between the Earth and the Sun) looked like from @Space_Station," wrote NASA astronaut Jessica Meir on Twitter from the International Space Station. 

Japan’s Aerospace Exploration Agency weather satellite, Himawari 8, also captured an impressive video of the Moon's shadow moving across the Earth.

The United States’ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) shared the video on Twitter.

Solar eclipses through the decade 

The solar eclipse of Thursday 26 December was the last of three in 2019. Previous eclipses took place on 6 January and 2 July.

There has been 24 solar eclipses since the beginning of the decade in 2010.

The next annular or 'ring of fire' solar eclipse will take place on 21 June, 2020. The eclipse will be visible from parts of Africa, southeast Europe, and Asia. 

On 10 January,  there will be a smaller penumbral lunar eclipse, this is where the Moon passes through the outer region of the Earth's shadow. It will be visible to observers from Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia.

Total solar eclipse 

A total solar eclipse will take place on 14 December 2020. South America (especially Chile) will be the best part of the world to see this solar eclipse.

Interesting fact 

Scientists say that the Moon is slowly moving away from the Earth. It is understood that In around about 600 million years, total solar eclipses will no longer occur. Presently, annular eclipses are more common than total solar eclipse and are certainly impressive to see.  

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