December 26, 2019. The rare Annular "ring of fire" solar eclipse as seen from the Corniche road in Doha, Qatar. Annular eclipses occur when the Moon is not close enough to the Earth to completely obscure the Sun, leaving a thin ring of the solar disc visible.

Photo by: Sorin Furcoi

Sorin Furcoi

What's the Ring of Fire in the Sky?

Africa and Asia will experience a Ring of FIre Eclipse on Sunday, June 21st and Lowell Observatory's Dr. Jeff Hall explain exactly what that means.

June 19, 2020

A solar eclipse nicknamed the "ring of fire" will be visible in parts of Africa and Asia on June 21st. Dr. Jeff Hall from Lowell Observatory explains the cool factor of this fiery eclipse.

What will this eclipse look like and where will it be visible?

This is an annular eclipse, meaning the apparent disk of the Moon is too small to cover the Sun entirely, as it does during a total eclipse. This occurs because the Moon’s orbit is an ellipse, not a circle, and the apparent size of Moon therefore changes over the course of the month. For this eclipse, the Moon is a bit too far from us to completely block the Sun.

This was just at the moment the Moon passed fully in front of the Sun, creating the so-called “ring of fire” with just a ring of sunlight left. That’s why everyone is applauding, but as you can see, it wasn’t dark at all. Annular eclipse just north of Flagstaff (May 20, 2012)

Photo by: Jeffrey Hall

Jeffrey Hall

This was just at the moment the Moon passed fully in front of the Sun, creating the so-called “ring of fire” with just a ring of sunlight left. That’s why everyone is applauding, but as you can see, it wasn’t dark at all. Annular eclipse just north of Flagstaff (May 20, 2012)

Annular eclipses are interesting but not especially dramatic without proper and safely outfitted binoculars or telescopes. To the eye, the light will get somewhat dusky and it will probably get noticeably cooler, but it won’t be particularly dark. It is entirely unsafe to look directly at an annular eclipse without protective eyewear like eclipse glasses.

All this said, a lot of people will see this one. It starts in Africa and makes its way east across the rather war-torn part of the Arabian peninsula, then across Pakistan and northern India, and finally across China and Taiwan before ending in the Pacific.



The entire sequence of the 2019 annular solar eclipse from start to finish. This sequence shows the beginning of the eclipse and continues all the way until the ring of fire is formed.

Photo by: goh keng cheong

goh keng cheong

How often does an eclipse like this occur?

Eclipses are common – there are usually a couple of solar eclipses (total or annular) every year, and also a couple of lunar eclipses (total or penumbral). That said, a solar eclipse in any given spot on earth is relatively rare – perhaps only one every few centuries on average. But as we know, striking deviations from the average always occur in nature, even if rarely. Carbondale, Illinois got treated to the 2017 total solar eclipse, and they’re going to get hit again just 7 years later in 2024 – lucky folks!

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