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Shadow Fire: 10 Fantastic Photos of Sunday's Annular Solar Eclipse

Professional astronomers and amateurs tapped their creativity to capture the first annular eclipse visible in the U.S. since 1994
Annular solar eclipse



Naoki Nakashima/Flickr/Creative Commons

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Sunday lived up to its name this past weekend, as countless skywatchers in the western U.S. took in a rare annular solar eclipse. An annular eclipse occurs when the moon passes directly in front of the sun but its apparent size, from Earth's perspective, is too small to completely cover the solar disk. During the May 20 eclipse, the moon covered as much as 94 percent of the sun, leaving a narrow "ring of fire" in the sky. (The apparent diameters of the sun and moon change over time; this is especially true for the moon, because its distance to Earth varies significantly over the course of its monthly elliptical orbit.)

The eclipse was visible in a narrow stripe crossing several western states, from Oregon to Texas, as well as in parts of Asia. A partial eclipse was visible from many more locations. Some observers documented the event using professional-quality astrophotography rigs complete with solar filters; some used binoculars to project the eclipse onto a screen for safe viewing. (Viewing the eclipse directly through binoculars could cause severe eye damage.) Other enthusiasts used makeshift pinhole devices—a colander, a clenched hand—whereas many relied on the natural pinhole-filtering effect of sunlight streaming between tree branches and leaves. We chose 10 photos of the eclipse—captured by professionals, by amateurs and by one Earth-orbiting spacecraft—that represent the myriad views different people had of the same event.

View a slide show of Sunday’s annular solar eclipse.

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