The moon obscured a portion of the sun in a solar eclipse Thursday, appearing as a partial solar eclipse to potentially millions of watchers and as a magnificent "ring of fire" to certain well-placed onlookers.
The first annular solar eclipse of 2021 was best seen from northernmost latitudes - northern Canada, Greenland and Scandinavia - which had the best seats. The moon appeared to obstruct (but not completely cover) the sun, leaving a glowing "ring of fire" impression visible around it.
A partial eclipse could be seen from northern latitudes in Europe and America where weather permitted. The scene was especially beautiful for those in eastern North America, where the eclipse happened precisely as the sun was rising, making for a breathtaking sight.
While watchers on the U.S. East Coast had to get up early to see the spectacle, they were rewarded with great views of a dawn eclipse that covered more than 70% of the sun in several areas. Weather conditions, however, tested the nerves of early-rising observers in some U.S. locations.
Annular solar eclipses occur when the moon is too close to the Earth to totally cover the face of the sun as seen from our planet's surface. Instead, it casts a thin, blazing ring known as an annulus around the moon's shadow.
The moon's orbit around Earth is tilted, so while it is in its "new" phase, it does not always line up with the sun. When they align precisely, we see a total solar eclipse, but other times we experience a partial solar eclipse or an annular event.
The annular solar eclipse Thursday came after a stunning Super Flower Blood Moon eclipse May 26, the only total lunar eclipse of 2021. There will be another solar eclipse in 2021, but this time the sun will be blocked by the moon in the Southern Hemisphere.
On Dec. 4, a total solar eclipse will occur, and though it may be even more impressive than Thursday's event, it will be difficult to see at its best. The totality path for the event will only include sections of Antarctica and the adjacent areas.