ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – From a park near Albuquerque, to the top of Japan’s Mount Fuji, to the California coast the effect was dramatic: The moon nearly blotting out the sun creating a blazing “ring of fire” eclipse.
Millions of people across a narrow strip of eastern Asia and the Western U.S. turned their sights skyward for the annular eclipse, in which the moon passes in front of the sun leaving only a golden ring around its edges.
The rare lunar-solar alignment was visible in Asia early Monday before it moved across the Pacific – and the international dateline – where it was seen in parts of the western United States late Sunday afternoon.
People from Colorado, Oklahoma and as far away as Canada travelled to Albuquerque to enjoy one of the best vantage points at a park on the edge of the city.
Members of the crowd smiled and cheered and children yelled with excitement as the moon crossed the sun and the blazing halo of light began to form. Some watched the eclipse by placing their viewing glasses on the front of their smartphones.
Eventually, the moon centred and covered about 96 per cent of the sun.
“That’s got to be the prettiest thing I’ve ever seen,” said Brent Veltri of Salida, Colorado.
In Winnipeg, however, the eclipse wasn’t quite so dramatic, with a partial eclipse blotting out the bottom third of the setting sun. Still, hundreds turned up at the Forks and at Assiniboine Park to take in the rare spectacle, many of them wearing special eclipse glasses purchased at the Manitoba Museum, or sporting welders masks to watch the sight.
Elsewhere, viewing parties were held at observatories in Reno, Nevada, and Oakland, California, while skywatchers gathered in coastal and forest counties in California. In some areas, special camera filters for taking photographs have been sold out for weeks in anticipation of the big event.
The eclipse was broadcast live on TV in Tokyo, where such an eclipse hasn’t been visible since 1839. Japanese TV crews watched from the top of Mount Fuji and even staked out a zoo south of Tokyo to capture the reaction of the chimpanzees – who didn’t seem to notice.
Eclipse tours were arranged in Japan at schools and parks, on pleasure boats and even private airplanes. Similar events were held in China and Taiwan as well, with skywatchers warned to protect their eyes.
A light rain fell on Tokyo as the eclipse began, but the clouds thinned as it reached its peak, providing near perfect conditions.
“It was a very mysterious sight,” said Kaori Sasaki, who joined a crowd in downtown Tokyo to watch event. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”