2021 annular ‘ring of fire’ solar eclipse thrills sky watchers, photographers


The images do not disappoint.

A partial solar eclipse is in process as seen from Toronto.

Sunrise on Thursday was odd enough for a large part of eastern North America. Depending on your location, it may appear as a crescent, which more closely resembles a waxing or waning Moon than the Sun.

This effect is thanks to a partial solar eclipse, when the Moon’s black disk aligns itself between Earth and the Sun to block out some or almost all of it, depending on when and where you see the event. This type of event is a boon for photographers.

Since the timing of this eclipse was lined up with sunrise over much of America’s eastern coastline, many great images were captured with a wide open horizon facing east. Some landmarks like the Delaware Breakwater Lighthouse, seen below, also add some nice perspective.

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Taken near Lewis Beach, Delaware.

Unlike a total solar eclipse, which can completely block out the Sun for a few terrifying moments, it was an annular eclipse. This means that due to the distance between the Sun, Moon and Earth this week, the Moon does not completely block the Sun, but rather releases a ring of massive fireballs, hence the nickname “Ring of Fire”. There is an eclipse.

However, this part of the event was visible only from a relatively narrow (and largely uninhabited) corridor that passed from Ontario in the north through Greenland to the North Pole and continued south into parts of Siberia. It is hard to imagine a more inaccessible part of the Earth.

This did not prevent intrepid photographers in some settlements from capturing this unique celestial phenomenon. Vini Karetak captures the Ring of Fire from Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada:

For those not on that path, though, there was another option to see that fiery ring. Sky & Telescope magazine hired a special flight to fly through the annular path and get photographers as close to the eclipse as possible without actually leaving the atmosphere.

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Photographer Eliot Herman took this photo from about 39,000 feet in Ontario.

After each solar eclipse, we’re left with a wealth of amazing new images and inspiration to plan ahead for the next one. Unfortunately, the only other eclipse in 2021 is arguably even more difficult to fully experience. The path of totality will only pass over Antarctica for the most part, leading to a total solar eclipse on December 4.

Another annular ring of fire eclipse will make a nice swing through the western US and Central America on October 14, 2023.

There is plenty of time for preparation.

If you have any epic shots of this eclipse, please share them with me on Twitter @EricCMack.

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