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‘Ring of fire’ visible in parts of US as crowds gathered to watch annular eclipse

As the “moment of annularity” was reached, photos were snapped, crowds cheered and the sky darkened – in the areas that the annular solar eclipse could be seen, at least.

Annularity during a solar eclipse is the moment when the moon is fully in front of the sun, creating the ring of fire that is the visual highlight of today’s eclipse. It lasts for only a few minutes.

The direct path of the eclipse covers portions of eight states from Oregon to Texas, although at least a partial eclipse, minus the ring of fire, was visible in all 41 of the other continental states including Alaska.

What is an annular solar eclipse and where will the ‘ring of fire’ be visible?Read more

Nasa kept up with a livestream of the event, including views from telescopes in its track. Gasps and cheers could be heard as annularity was reached in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where the space agency was viewing the eclipse. “We’re in annularity. It is a gorgeous sight to behold,” said Michael Kirk, a heliophysicist at Nasa.

A completely black image with a perfectly round, thin circle in the middle. You wouldn't know this wasn't a graphic image.The moon completely crosses in front of the sun as seen in Albuquerque, New Mexico, 14 on October 2023. Photograph: Sam Wasson/Getty Images

An annular eclipse is one in which the moon passes between the sun and Earth, but at or close to its farthest point from the planet. It appears smaller than the sun and does not completely cover it, producing the image of a dark disk on top of a larger, brighter disk and creating the effect of a fiery ring around the moon.

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In remote corners of the country, eclipse watchers were up early, or had camped overnight, to try to get the best view possible. At Bryce Canyon national park in southern Utah, lights were visible before sunrise along a well-known trail that snakes through a valley of red rock hoodoos.

“I just think it’s one of those things that unites us all,” said John Edwards, a cancer drug developer who traveled alone across the country to try to watch the eclipse from Bryce Canyon. “It’s seeing these unique experiences that come rarely is what got me here. This is about as rare as it gets.”

The most recent annular eclipse visible in North America was in 2012. The next viewing opportunity will be in 2039 in Alaska, and 2046 in the lower 48 states.

Eclipse festivals and watch parties were taking place at numerous planetariums, science museums, schools and other venues across the country.

Nasa had urged a safety-first approach, warning people not to look at the event except through special eclipse glasses, a solar viewer, or solar filters on a telescope. The space agency recommends alternative, non-direct viewing methods, such as a pinhole projector.

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Scientists also used the occasion to study how a sudden drop in sunlight affects the upper atmosphere. Three Nasa “sounding rockets” were fired into the shadow of the eclipse from the White Sands missile range in New Mexico to record atmospheric changes.

After an earlier pass above Alaska, the annular eclipse was visible in central and southern Oregon beginning at approximately 9.13am PT, and followed a south-east path across portions of California, Nevada, Idaho, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico, before crossing a wide expanse of Texas and into the Gulf of Mexico.

The Yucatán peninsula, and several Central and South American countries from Belize to Brazil also lie in the path of annularity.

The Associated Press contributed to this story