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2021 ‘ring of fire’ solar eclipse thrills sky watchers, photographers

The partial solar eclipse in process as seen from Toronto. Spaceweather.com/Felix Zai Sunrise was pretty weird on Thursday for a large chunk of eastern North America. Depending on your location, the sun may have looked like a crescent — more akin to a waxing or waning moon than the sun. This effect is thanks to…

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The partial solar eclipse in process as seen from Toronto.


Spaceweather.com/Felix Zai

Sunrise was pretty weird on Thursday for a large chunk of eastern North America. Depending on your location, the sun may have looked like a crescent — more akin to a waxing or waning moon than the sun.

This effect is thanks to a partial solar eclipse, when the darkened disc of the moon aligns itself between Earth and the sun to block out some or nearly all of it, depending on when and where you view the phenomenon. Such an event is a bonanza for photographers.

Because the timing of this eclipse lined up with sunrise over much of the US eastern seaboard, many great images got  captured facing east with a wide open horizon. Some landmarks, like the Delaware Breakwater Lighthouse seen below, also add some nice perspective.

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Taken near Lewes Beach, Delaware.


NASA/Aubrey Gemignani

At just the right moment, the sunrise profile looked like a fiery horn emerging from behind the horizon instead of the more familiar disc we’re used to:

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A partial solar eclipse is seen as the sun rises to the left of the United States Capitol building.


NASA/Bill Ingalls

Unlike a total solar eclipse, which can fully block out the sun for a few eerie moments, this was an annular eclipse. That means that due to the distance between the sun, moon and Earth this week, the moon does not totally block out the sun but rather leaves a ring of the massive fireball visible, hence the nickname “ring of fire” eclipse.

However, this part of the phenomenon was only visible from a relatively narrow (and largely uninhabited) corridor that stretched north from Ontario through Greenland, passing over the North Pole and continuing south over parts of Siberia. That’s a pretty inaccessible slice of the Earth.

That didn’t stop intrepid photographers in the few settlements along the path of annularity from capturing this unique celestial event. Vinnie Karetak captured the ring of fire from Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada:

For those not along that path, though, there was another option to see the fiery ring. Sky and Telescope magazine chartered a special flight to fly through the path of annularity and get photographers about as close to the eclipse as possible without actually leaving the atmosphere.

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Photographer Eliot Herman took this photo from about 39,000 feet over Ontario.


Spaceweather.com/Eliot Herman

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