'Ring of fire' solar eclipse greets north country at sunrise

·3 min read

Jun. 10—WADDINGTON — Atop the Howard Park hill at sunrise Thursday, a crescent sun illuminated the St. Lawrence River.

Where the New York and Canadian waters meet at the Waddington overlook, a partial solar eclipse was visible for about 60 minutes. First light poured shortly before 4:30 a.m., and when the sun became noticeable above the horizon at 5:14 a.m., it was accompanied by the new moon.

From an Earthly vantage, solar eclipses are observed when the moon passes in front of the sun, most often partially blocking, and sometimes totally blocking, the sun's light. An annular solar eclipse — annulus meaning ring — is a partial blockage, alternatively named a "ring of fire." Depending on the viewing coordinates, the moon can appear centered on the sun, with a hazy ring of light bordering the dark moon disk.

Viewing from New York, from its most northern reaches in St. Lawrence County, an apparent skewed alignment painted a set of horns rather than a ring. As the eclipse was already in progress before sunrise, the crescent sun first appeared right-facing, then shifted to a top-facing orientation that might be affixed to a bright orange bull's head.

At a prime viewing spot in clear enough conditions during an annular eclipse, it's possible to see a devil's sunrise: when the two points of the crescent sun peak above the horizon just as the sun starts to rise.

The eclipse was visible in the Northern Hemisphere at varying times after sunrise around Lake Superior, where its path turned northward to Canada, Greenland and the North Pole before heading south to eastern Russia.

With 10 days until the June solstice, the Northern Hemisphere is nearing its maximum tilt toward the light in Earth's orbit around the sun. At the same time, the moon is nearing its farthest point from Earth in its orbit around the planet.

Solar and lunar eclipses happen in tandem, and this week's event follows the May 26 lunar eclipse that hid the full moon in Earth's shadow completely for about 15 minutes and partially for about three hours.

Unlike a solar eclipse alignment positioning the moon between the sun and Earth, a lunar eclipse can happen when the Earth is aligned between the sun and a full moon.

Though other types of solar eclipses can draw sky gazers to viewing areas every six months, annular eclipses happen every one to two years under specific circumstances. The moon must be new; and the Earth, sun and new moon must be aligned near a lunar node, where the moon's orbital path intersects the Earth's orbital path.

New York last fell in the narrow viewing trail of a crescent sunrise on March 16, 1875, according to NASA.

The next annular eclipse is anticipated on Oct. 23, 2023. Its path is projected to first be visible from the Pacific Northwest, then span the continental U.S. to South America.

For any solar eclipse viewing, protective measures are crucial to eye health. The sun should only be viewed through filters in eyewear or through lens filters for cameras and telescopes. Eyewear and lens filters can be checked for compliance with the International Organization for Standardization and the American National Standards Institute. Vendors of compliant products are listed on the American Astronomical Society's website: eclipse.aas.org/resources/solar-filters.

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