Solar eclipse displays "ring of fire" over Southern Hemisphere

A partial solar eclipse was visible above Australia on Tuesday, April 29. Slooh Community Telescope/YouTube

Two weeks after the moon turned a reddish hue during a total lunar eclipse -- putting on a colorful show for stargazers in North and South America -- people on the other side of the world got a chance to see a cosmic event of their own.

On Tuesday, the moon blocked 64 percent of the sun in Australia, while the sun also appeared as a blindingly bright ring around the moon from the frozen continent of Antarctica. A streaming video feed from the Sydney Observatory was quickly clouded out, but the Slooh Community Telescope had a good view of the eclipse from Newcastle, Australia, reported Space.com.


The last time Australia saw an annular solar eclipse was in May 2013, according to NASA. Also known as a "ring of fire" eclipse, the first solar eclipse of the year appeared as a partial solar eclipse by observers in Australia and southern Indonesia and to the penguins in Antarctica.

"This is a thoroughly bizarre eclipse," Bob Berman, an astronomer with Slooh, said in a press release prior to the event. "When SLOOH brings its live feeds from Australia, and we watch in real time as the inky black hemisphere of the Moon partially obscures the Sun, the greatest thrill might be an awareness of what's occurring unseen by any human in a tiny region of Antarctica."

Solar eclipses occur when the moon passes between the Earth and the sun. Although this happens roughly every 30 days, it does not create a solar eclipse every time, as the moon's orbit around the Earth is tilted 5 degrees to the Earth's orbit around the sun. With the moon's orbit being elliptical -- not round -- this means that the moon's shadow almost always falls above or below the planet, according to the website MrEclipse.com, by former NASA astronomer Fred Espenak.

In a total solar eclipse, the moon completely blocks out the bright light of the sun, allowing for the solar corona -- the outermost region of the sun's atmosphere -- to be seen. In a partial solar eclipse, the moon does not line up with the sun, and results in a penumbral shadow striking Earth, according to MrEclipse.com. In an annular solar eclipse, the moon is lined up with the sun. However, the moon is too far from Earth to completely cover the sun, so an antumbra shadow extends beyond the darkest part of the moon's shadow, resulting in a bright ring around the moon.

NASA reminded viewers not look directly at the sun during a partial or annular solar eclipse, as severe eye damage can occur.

This was the second eclipse so far this year. The next one, a lunar eclipse, will take place Oct. 8, and another solar eclipse is expected Oct. 23.

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