Thousands view 'ring of fire' eclipse

Thousands view 'ring of fire' eclipse

Thousands view 'ring of fire' eclipse

Updated 21 May 2012, 11:49 AEST

Thousands across Asia have turned their eyes and their cameras to the sky to witness the annular solar eclipse, where the moon is far enough from earth that when it crosses between the sun and earth it leaves the edge of the sun visible.

The 'ring of fire' eclipse is also visible in North America - the first time it has been seen in the US since 1994, with the next one not due to occur until 2023.

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NASA Space Scientist Jeffrey Newmark says an annular eclipse occurs when the moon's orbit is at its furthest point from the Earth and closer to the much larger sun, allowing the moon to block more than 90 percent of the sun's rays.

"It's like moving your fist in front of your eyes," he said.

"You can block out the view of a whole mountain. It's the same kind of effect."

The eclipse first became visible over southern Asia and then moved across the Pacific to the north-west.

From start to finish, the eclipse was expected to be visible for just under two hours, with a view of the so-called "ring of fire" spectacle at the eclipse's peak expected to only last about four minutes.

Inese Ivans, an assistant professor of astronomy and astrophysics at the University of Utah, says even then will only be visible to viewers positioned along the centerline of the eclipse's path.

"If you're off that swath, you'll only see a partial eclipse," she said. "And there are parts of the world that will see no eclipse at all."