Stargazers applaud as moon eclipses sun

2017-02-26 18:21
The moon passes in front of the sun, creating a solar eclipse visible in the southern hemisphere, seen from Sao Paulo in Brazil. (Andre Penner, AP)

The moon passes in front of the sun, creating a solar eclipse visible in the southern hemisphere, seen from Sao Paulo in Brazil. (Andre Penner, AP)

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Sarmiento - Stargazers applauded as they were plunged into darkness on Sunday when the moon passed in front of the sun in a spectacular "ring of fire" eclipse.

Astronomers and enthusiasts in Argentina were among the first to see the so-called annular eclipse as it crossed South America shortly after 12:00GMT, on course for Africa.

Staring up through special telescopes, protective glasses or homemade cardboard pinhole devices, they watched the Sun all but disappear briefly as the Moon crossed its path.

Fiery ring

The eclipse was to be most visible in a 100km band across Chile, Argentina, Angola, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

More than 100 stargazers gathered on Sunday morning in the southern city of Sarmiento, the point in Argentina where the eclipse was expected to be most visible.

"I have already seen six annular eclipses and each one was different," said Josep Masalles Roman, an enthusiast who came all the way from Barcelona in Spain.

An annular solar eclipse occurs when the Earth, Moon and Sun line up.

But even when perfectly aligned, the Moon is too far from Earth to completely block out the Sun, creating instead the impression of a fiery ring.

Terry Moseley of the Irish Astronomical Association warned that viewers should not observe the eclipse with the naked eye.

According to the Astronomical Society of Southern Africa (ASSA), the eclipse can be safely observed using a basic pinhole projector.

Punch a tiny hole in a piece of paper with a sharp pencil, hold it into the Sun, and project the image onto a second sheet.

The gaps between tree leaves make for a similar effect on the ground, says the ASSA website, calling this "the coolest and safest way to watch a solar eclipse".

Eclipse peak

"As about 90% of the Sun is covered, you'll notice a distinct drop in temperature and brightness and a change in the quality of the light which is hard to describe," said Moseley.

At the height of the eclipse the Moon is right in the middle of the Sun, leaving a perfect ring of light around the edge.

It takes about two hours for the Moon to move across the face of the Sun, but the "ring of fire" peak lasted a mere minute.

Starting in the southeast Pacific Ocean at sunrise, the eclipse passed over southern Chile then Argentina before sweeping over the South Atlantic.

At sea, the eclipse peak was to last 44 seconds and "only be visible to any ships that happen to be in the right place at the right time," said Moseley.

Read more on:    argentina  |  astronomy

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