The skies over Africa darkened this morning thanks to a “ring of fire” solar eclipse.
People around the world were able to watch the space event live thanks to a free webcast from the Slooh Community Observatory. The webcast featured live telescope shots beamed from the main Slooh observatory in the Canary Islands, which are found off the west coast of Africa.
Annular solar eclipse visible in Africa
Slooh also broadcast the view from South Africam Madagascar, Tanzania and the island of Réunion. The Slooh webcast started from 2:45 a.m. EDT Thursday, with the solar eclipse reaching its peak around 3 hours later. The space event was over by 8 a.m. EDT.
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“We’re in for one heck of a ride as we follow the moon’s shadow as it races across the surface of the Earth at over 2,000 mph,” Slooh astronomer Paul Cox said in a statement released before the event. “We’ve got a terrific lineup of expert guests on the show — everything from the science of eclipses through to how they affect us psychologically, and a look at how mankind has treated these amazing celestial events in the past.”
“Ring of fire” eclipses are also known as annular eclipses. They refer to a solar eclipse in which the moon doesn’t completely block the sun, but instead leaves a thin ring around the solar disk. These kind of solar eclipses happen when the moon is far away from the Earth in its elliptical orbit.
Solar eclipse is second this year
On the other hand, total solar eclipses happen when the moon is near to Earth. This means it is big enough to completely block the sun.
The eclipse this morning was only visible to people in a narrow band of land that cut across the Atlantic, south-central Africa, some areas of Madagascar, the island of Réunion and the southern part of the Indian Ocean. However most areas of Africa were able to observe a partial eclipse, as were parts of the Arabian Peninsula and small areas of Western Australia and Indonesia.
This latest solar eclipse is the second one this year. The first was a total solar eclipse which took place on March 8-9, and was visible from Indonesia and parts of the Pacific Ocean region. The next annular solar eclipse is set to take place in February 2017. It will be visible from southern Chile, Argentina and Africa.
“Great American Total Solar Eclipse” coming in August 2017
Shortly afterwards, on 21 August 2017, a total solar eclipse will darken the skies over a large area of the continental United States. The space event has been billed as the “Great American Total Solar Eclipse” and will leave swathes of the country from Oregon to South Carolina in temporary darkness, running along a stretch of land around 70 miles wide.
According to astronomer Jay Pasachoff of Williams College in Massachusetts, those who move to the “path of totality” to observe the event will witness an amazing event. “It’s a tremendous opportunity,” he said. “It’s a chance to see the universe change around you.”
The last time a total solar eclipse left the mainland U.S. in shadow was on 26 February 1979. However Pasachoff says that the 2017 event will be “readily available to people from coast to coast.”
If you are lucky enough to be able to observe a solar eclipse with your own eyes, it is important not to look directly at the sun. This can result in serious, permanent eye damage.