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Last Updated: Saturday, 31 May, 2003, 18:19 GMT 19:19 UK
Skywatchers see 'ring of fire'
Skywatchers in the North Atlantic region were treated on Saturday to an annular eclipse of the Sun.

Eclipse, PA
The Sun and Moon were low on the horizon
Just after dawn, people standing in a broad path from Scotland to Greenland saw the Moon slip inside the Sun's disc to produce a "ring of fire" around the lunar limb.

But the low position on the horizon for the event meant many people had their view obstructed by mist and cloud.

The BBC's science correspondent Pallab Ghosh, standing on a beach at Unst in the Shetland Islands, had his big moment ruined by the British weather.

"When the Sun started rising, there was great hope because there was a break in the cloud and looking through eclipse viewers we saw the Moon take a huge chunk out of the Sun.

"It was spectacular, the light had a rosy glow and we were hoping to see the ring of fire - but just at the crucial moment, the Sun and Moon passed up into the biggest bank of cloud you could imagine."

Dark shadow

Because the Moon is currently more than 400,000 kilometres from Earth in its orbit, its apparent size in the sky is insufficient to completely cover the Sun's disc - as happens in a total solar eclipse.

Picture taken by Tomas Pettersson in Ljusdal, Sweden.

The sky does not go completely black; a ring or annulus of sunlight is still visible.

The effect is to throw an "antumbra" or "negative shadow" on the Earth's surface as the Moon moves across the face of the Sun. It is the track of this antumbra that is referred to as the path of annularity.

On Saturday, this path touched down first on the Grampian Mountains of the Scottish highlands at about 0345 GMT (0445 BST).

It then moved in a northwestern trajectory, which stretched across Loch Ness, the Isle of Lewis (Outer Hebrides), Orkney Islands and Shetland Islands.

Partial show

The track of the shadow took it through the Faeroe Islands at 0351 GMT, and the southeastern coast of Iceland at 0359 GMT

From Iceland, the shadow then raced across the Denmark Strait and bisected Greenland, lifting off into space from the Davis Strait at 0431 GMT.

From start to finish, the antumbra's sweep across the planet lasted just 47 minutes.

ZONE OF ANNULARITY
Map BBC
Darkest (antumbral) shadow swept east to west from Scotland
Most of Europe, Middle East, and Asia got to see a partial eclipse
Next total solar eclipse in November is viewable only Antarctica
Those viewing outside the favoured zone were treated to a partial eclipse, in which the Moon just took a bite out of the side of the Sun's disc.

This was visible across a very much broader region, taking in most of Europe (except Spain and Portugal), the Middle East, as well as central and northern Asia.

There is a total solar eclipse this year on 23 November but it will only be visible from Antarctica. A partial eclipse will be visible though from parts of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

Have you witnessed the eclipse? If you have any pictures please send them in jpg form to yourpics@bbc.co.uk.


I flew up to Inverness with my friend Steve Roberts from Sussex the night before expecting to see nothing because the forecast was so bad. In the end we made a last minute dash from the thick fog of Nairn to Burghead and got an amazingly clear view from a minute after annularity to the end. The crescent was so thin, we could imagine what annularity was like easily even if we didn't see it. Well worth trip and I'm now back in Sussex!
David Hockley, England

The view from above the Kilt Rock near Staffin on the Isle of Skye was superb. The first sight through a break in the low cloud, at seventeen minutes to five BST, was of a deep red arch, which was the sun rising eclipsed. The complete annulus, a ruby-red ring, appeared at about quarter to and was visible for two minutes. The haze allowed comfortable, direct viewing.
Geoff Lake, Scotland, UK

I have just driven 500 miles to see the annular eclipse on northern Skye (I live in Glasgow). It was fantastic, especially as I had been convinced that I would see nothing (it was very cloudy at dawn). But I stopped in another lay-by and, amazingly, the sun and moon appeared through the cloud for just long enough to see the "ring of fire" effect before disappearing again not ten minutes later. It was very dramatic indeed, with the red ring set against the dark cloud, and the reflection on the loch. Only one problem, I forgot my camera.
Richard Hughson, Scotland

Fantastic view of the eclipse from Burghead on the Moray Firth. The 'crescent sun' appeared very faintly just after the annular phase. It brightened quickly, but was easily visible for the next 10 to 15 minutes without eye protection because of the filtering effect of the sea mist.
Peter Adamson, UK

Flying from Crete to Glasgow this morning (Sat 31/5/03) I was looking out of the window and witnessing a most unusual sunrise. I was witnessing a partial eclipse of the sun. There was a crescent of red, glowing light, low in intensity, at first, then an occasional glint of the sun's true magnitude. I have to admit that it went on for a little longer than I have seen in the past and was glad to see that day was gradually dawning on touchdown in Glasgow!
Gordon Edwards, Scotland




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Sue Nelson
"It was an unforgettable sight"



SEE ALSO:
Moon dives behind Earth
16 May 03  |  Science/Nature
Mercury passes across Sun
07 May 03  |  Science/Nature
Millions wonder at southern eclipse
04 Dec 02  |  Science/Nature


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