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‘Ring of fire’ solar eclipse begins its path across the Americas, stretching from Oregon to Brazil

by Ryan Lee
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Ring of Fire Solar Eclipse

The journey of a partial solar eclipse, marking the initial phase of a rare “ring of fire” eclipse, commenced its trajectory across the Americas, stretching from Oregon to Brazil. The event unfolded on Saturday morning, with NASA’s livestream capturing the moon’s gradual coverage of the sun in Eugene, Oregon, at 8:08 a.m. local time.

In various small towns and cities along the eclipse’s narrow path, a mixture of excitement, concerns about weather conditions, and the anticipation of a surge in visitors to witness this celestial spectacle, also known as an annular solar eclipse, filled the atmosphere. Clouds and fog posed potential obstacles to visibility in some western states, including California and Oregon.

At the Eugene Science Center in Eugene, a crowd of enthusiasts set up telescopes and cameras equipped with special filters, fervently hoping for the clearing of clouds on the horizon. Among them was Shuumei Kodama, an 11-year-old who had awakened at 4:30 a.m. to travel from Portland, Oregon, with his father. Holding eclipse glasses, he expressed his lifelong fascination with space and his goal of witnessing various types of eclipses.

Unlike a total solar eclipse, the moon in a ring of fire eclipse does not completely obscure the sun, leaving behind a bright, blazing border when it aligns between Earth and the sun.

The eclipse’s path on Saturday included Oregon, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, and Texas in the U.S., with a portion extending into California, Arizona, and Colorado. The subsequent destinations included Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, and Brazil. Other parts of the Western Hemisphere experienced a partial eclipse.

Eclipse enthusiasts from across the U.S. gathered in remote areas, such as Bryce Canyon National Park in southern Utah, where they embarked on trails to secure prime viewing spots before sunrise. For John Edwards, a cancer drug developer who had journeyed solo across the country to witness the eclipse at Bryce Canyon, this event was a rare and unifying experience.

However, the visibility of the eclipse was contingent on clear skies, and some parts of the U.S. path faced the possibility of cloud cover. To address this, NASA and other organizations planned livestreams of the event.

In Albuquerque, New Mexico, tens of thousands of spectators at the international balloon fiesta were in for a double treat as the eclipse coincided with the event. Organizers distributed 80,000 pairs of viewing glasses, providing attendees with the opportunity to witness both the eclipse and the colorful hot air balloons taking flight.

On the East Coast, viewers anticipated a partial eclipse, with locations like New York City expecting about a quarter of the sun to be covered around midday. In Maine, the Clark Telescope at the Versant Power Astronomy Center at the University of Maine welcomed the public for safe viewing of the eclipse, offering safety glasses for purchase.

Across the globe, efforts were made to enable a diverse audience to experience the eclipse. In Colombia’s Tatacoa desert, astronomers assisted visually impaired individuals in perceiving the eclipse through raised maps and temperature fluctuations as the moon obscured the sun. Meanwhile, at the Cancun Planetarium, young visitors constructed box projectors for indirect and secure viewing of the ring of fire.

As the eclipse path continued, towns and national parks braced for potential throngs of visitors, ensuring essential supplies were stocked and preparations were in place. The entire eclipse, from the moon’s initial coverage of the sun until it returns to normal, spanned 2 1/2 to three hours at any given location, with the ring of fire phase lasting from three to five minutes, depending on the specific location.

Looking ahead, a total solar eclipse is slated to traverse the U.S. in the opposite direction next April, starting in Mexico and passing through Texas to New England before concluding in eastern Canada. The next ring of fire eclipse is scheduled for October of the following year at the southernmost tip of South America, with Antarctica set to experience one in 2026. The U.S. won’t witness another ring of fire eclipse until 2039, and Alaska will be the sole state within its direct path.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Ring of Fire Solar Eclipse

What is a “ring of fire” solar eclipse?

A “ring of fire” solar eclipse, also known as an annular solar eclipse, occurs when the moon passes between Earth and the sun but does not completely cover the sun. This leaves a bright, blazing border, resembling a ring of fire.

Where did the recent “ring of fire” eclipse take place?

The recent “ring of fire” solar eclipse had a path stretching across the Americas, starting in Oregon, U.S., and extending through Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, and Texas, with partial visibility in California, Arizona, and Colorado. It then continued through Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, and Brazil.

How long did the eclipse last?

The entire eclipse event, from the moon beginning to cover the sun until it returned to normal, lasted approximately 2 1/2 to three hours at any given location. The ring of fire phase, where the sun appeared as a bright ring, lasted from three to five minutes, depending on the specific location.

Were there any concerns about weather conditions affecting visibility?

Yes, there were concerns about weather conditions potentially affecting visibility. Clouds and fog threatened to obscure the view of the eclipse in some western states, including California and Oregon. Viewers were reliant on clear skies for an optimal viewing experience.

When is the next “ring of fire” eclipse, and where will it be visible?

The next “ring of fire” eclipse is scheduled for October of the following year and will be visible at the southernmost tip of South America. After that, there will be an eclipse in Antarctica in 2026, and the next opportunity to witness a “ring of fire” eclipse in the U.S. will be in 2039, with Alaska being the only state in its direct path.

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