A “ring of fire” solar eclipse appeared in the sky Thursday as the moon partially blocked out the sun.
It was visible in many parts of the Northern Hemisphere, and people around the world captured the celestial show — the first of two solar eclipses this year — with some stunning images.
A solar eclipse happens when the moon crosses between the sun and the Earth, which blocks a portion of the sun’s rays, according to NASA.
This eclipse is an annular eclipse, meaning the moon is far enough away from the Earth that it appears smaller than the sun.
When the moon crosses paths with the fiery star, it will look smaller than the sun, leaving room for bright light to glow around the edges. This is called “the ring of fire” and was expected to be visible to some people in Greenland, northern Russia and Canada, NASA said.
Other countries in the Northern Hemisphere, including the United Kingdom and Ireland, were able to see a partial eclipse, which is where the moon only covers a portion of the sun. A fingernail-shaped shadow covered a different percentage of the sun, depending on your location.
The eclipse began its sweep in Canada north of the Great Lakes, crossed northeastern Canada into the Arctic Ocean, passed over the North Pole, and was expected to end in northeastern Siberia, according to the UK’s Royal Astronomical Society. The partial eclipse is expected to be visible until about 9:11 a.m. ET.
The name “annular” comes from the Latin word “annulus,” which means ring-shaped, according to Farmers’ Almanac.
How to safely watch
Because some of the sun’s rays will be glowing from behind the moon, it’s important to wear proper eye protection when viewing the solar eclipse, according to the American Astronomical Society.
Make sure when you purchase a solar filter that it meets the ISO 12312-2 international standard to protect your eyes. “Eclipse glasses” cost a couple dollars and are the only safe way to view the eclipse, AAS said.
Here are some additional safety tips to remember, according to the American Astronomical Society:
- Always inspect your solar filter before use; if it’s scratched, punctured, torn or otherwise damaged, discard it. Read and follow any instructions printed on or packaged with the filter.
- Always supervise children using solar filters.
- If you normally wear eyeglasses, keep them on. Put your eclipse glasses on over them or hold your handheld viewer in front of them.
- Stand still and cover your eyes with your eclipse glasses or solar viewer before looking up at the bright sun. After looking at the sun, turn away and remove your filter; do not remove it while looking at the sun.
- Do not look at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun through an unfiltered camera, telescope, binoculars or other optical device.
- Similarly, do not look at the sun through a camera, a telescope, binoculars or any other optical device while using your eclipse glasses or handheld solar viewer; the concentrated solar rays could damage the filter and enter your eyes, causing serious injury.
- Seek expert advice from an astronomer before using a solar filter with a camera, telescope, binoculars or any other optical device; note that solar filters must be attached to the front of any telescope, binoculars, camera lens or other optics.
Solar and lunar eclipses
This year, in addition to the two solar eclipses, there will be two eclipses of the moon — and three of these will be visible for some in North America, according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac.
After the solar eclipse on June 10, the next opportunity to see an eclipse won’t come until November 19. This partial eclipse of the moon can be viewed by skywatchers in North America and Hawaii between 1 a.m. ET and 7:06 a.m. ET.
And the year will end with a total eclipse of the sun on December 4. It won’t be visible in North America, but those in the Falkland Islands, the southern tip of Africa, Antarctica and southeastern Australia will be able to spot it.
Here is what else you can look forward to in 2021.
Typical of a normal year, 2021 will have 12 full moons. (There were 13 full moons last year, two of which were in October.)
Here are all of the full moons remaining this year and their names, according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac:
June 24 — strawberry moon
July 23 — buck moon
August 22 — sturgeon moon
September 20 — harvest moon
October 20 — hunter’s moon
November 19 — beaver moon
December 18 — cold moon
Be sure to check for the other names of these moons as well, attributed to their respective Native American tribes.
The Delta Aquariids are best seen from the southern tropics and will peak between July 28 and 29, when the moon is 74% full.
Interestingly, another meteor shower peaks on the same night — the Alpha Capricornids. This is a much weaker shower, but it has been known to produce some bright fireballs during its peak. The Carpicornids will be visible for everyone no matter which side of the equator you are on.
The Perseid meteor shower, the most popular of the year, will peak between August 11 and 12 in the Northern Hemisphere, when the moon is only 13% full.
Here is the meteor shower schedule for the rest of the year, according to EarthSky’s meteor shower outlook.
October 8: Draconids
October 21: Orionids
November 4 to 5: South Taurids
November 11 to 12: North Taurids
November 17: Leonids
December 13 to 14: Geminids
December 22: Ursids
Skywatchers will have multiple opportunities to spot the planets in our sky during certain mornings and evenings throughout 2021, according to the Farmer’s Almanac planetary guide.
It’s possible to see most of these with the naked eye, with the exception of distant Neptune, but binoculars or a telescope will provide the best view.
Mercury will look like a bright star in the morning sky from June 27 to July 16 and October 18 to November 1. The planet will shine in the night sky from August 31 to September 21 and November 29 to December 31.
Venus, our closest neighbor in the solar system, is visible in the western sky at dusk in the evenings until December 31. It’s the second-brightest object in our sky, after the moon.
Mars makes its reddish appearance in the morning sky between November 24 and December 31, and it will appear in the evening sky through August 22.
Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system, is the third-brightest object in our sky. The giant will be on display in the morning sky through August 19. Look for it in the evenings August 20 to December 31 — but it will be at its brightest from August 8 to September 2.
Saturn’s rings are only visible through a telescope, but the planet itself can still be seen with the naked eye in the mornings through August 1 and in the evenings August 2 to December 31. It will be at its brightest during the first four days of August.
Binoculars or a telescope will help you spot the greenish glow of Uranus on the mornings of May 16 to November 3 and the evenings of November 4 to December 31. The planet will be at its brightest between August 28 and December 31.
And our most distant neighbor in the solar system, Neptune, will be visible through a telescope in the mornings through September 13 and during the evenings September 14 to December 31. The planetary outlier will be at its brightest between July 19 and November 8.