Millions look up for ‘ring of fire’

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IOL pic may21 asia annular eclipse

Associated Press

The moon slides across the sun, showing a blazing halo of light, during an annular solar eclipse at a waterfront park in Yokohama, near Tokyo, in Japan.

Tokyo - Millions of Asians watched as a rare “ring of fire” eclipse crossed their skies early on Monday.

The annular eclipse, in which the moon passes in front of the sun, leaving only a golden ring around its edges, was visible to wide areas across the continent. It will move across the Pacific and also be seen in parts of the western United States.

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.

To the disappointment of many, a light rain fell on Tokyo as the eclipse began, but the clouds thinned as it reached its peak.

“It was a very mysterious sight,” said Kaori Sasaki, who joined a crowd in downtown Tokyo to watch event. “I've never seen anything like it.”

The eclipse will follow a narrow 13 700km path for about three hours. The ring phenomenon will last about five minutes, depending on location. People outside the narrow band for prime viewing will see a partial eclipse.

“Ring of Fire” eclipses is 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.

Doctors and education officials have warned of eye injuries from improper viewing. Before the event started, Japan's Education Minister Hirofumi Hirano demonstrated how to use eclipse glasses in a televised news conference.

Police also cautioned against traffic accidents, warning drivers to keep their eyes on the road. - Sapa-AP


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