Cheers erupted among crowds in Oregon and New Mexico on Saturday as a rare “ring of fire” solar eclipse that had millions across the Americas waiting in anticipation began to offer a spectacular show.
With cloudy skies, a NASA livestream of the phenomenon reported it in Eugene, Oregon, shortly after 9:15 a.m. local time. This happened more than an hour after the appearance of a partial eclipse.
For the small towns along its narrow path, there was a mix of excitement, worries about the weather and fears of being overwhelmed by visitors flocking to see the celestial event, also called an annular solar eclipse. . Clouds and fog threatened to obscure the view of the eclipse in some Western states, including California and Oregon.
As totality began in Eugene, Oregon, there were oohs and ahs combined with groans of disappointment as the eclipse was intermittently visible, sunlight only occasionally breaking through the cloud cover behind the moon.
In New Mexico, the sky was clear, giving tens of thousands of spectators a clear view. They got a double treat since the eclipse coincided with an international hot air balloon festival that draws nearly 100,000 spectators for massive early morning ascensions of hundreds of colorful hot air balloons.
Organizers distributed 80,000 pairs of glasses on Saturday morning. There were hoots, whoops and whoops as the ring formed and the hot air balloon pilots used their propane burners to shoot flames upward.
Allan Hahn of Aurora, Colorado, has been attending the festival for 34 years, first as a crew member and then as a licensed balloon pilot. His balloon, Heaven Bound Too, was one of 72 selected for a special “glow” performance as the sky darkened during the eclipse.
“It’s very exciting to be here and see the convergence of our love of flight with something very natural like an eclipse,” he said.
Unlike a total solar eclipse, the Moon does not completely cover the sun during a ring of fire eclipse. When the Moon aligns between the Earth and the Sun, it leaves a bright, blazing border.
Saturday’s route: Oregon, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico and Texas in the United States, with parts of California, Arizona and Colorado. Next: Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia and Brazil. Much of the rest of the Western Hemisphere experiences a partial eclipse.
The celestial event brought eclipse watchers from across the United States to remote corners of the country to try to get the best view possible. In Bryce Canyon National Park in southern Utah, tiny lights could be seen along a well-known trail that winds through a valley of red rock hoodoos as eclipse enthusiasts traveled the trail before sunrise to spot their favorite spots in the nooks and crannies of the path.
“I just think it’s one of those things that unites us all,” said John Edwards, a cancer drug developer who traveled alone across the country to try to observe the eclipse from Bryce Canyon. “I just think it’s seeing these unique experiences that rarely happen that brought me here. This is as rare as it gets.
Seeing everything depends on clear skies – part of the US route might see clouds. NASA and other groups broadcast it live.
Viewers on the East Coast were ready to see less of the event — nearly a quarter eclipse around noon in some areas, such as New York — but were nonetheless ready to observe the sky. In Maine, viewers expected to see only about 12 percent of the sun covered, but the Clark Telescope, located on the grounds of the University of Maine’s Versant Power Astronomy Center, was open to the public.
The planetarium sold safety glasses for $2 to encourage safe viewing, said Shawn Laatsch, director of Versant Power Astronomy and the Maynard Jordan Planetarium.
“When the Moon passes between the Earth and the Sun, it casts its shadow on our planet,” Laatsch said. “In a very real sense, solar eclipses occur ‘in the shadow’ of the moon.”
Colombia’s Tatacoa Desert was home to astronomers helping a group of visually impaired people learn about the eclipse through relief maps and the temperature changes as the moon obscured the sun.
At the Cancún Planetarium, young visitors built box-shaped projectors to safely and indirectly view the ring of fire. The ancient Mayans – who called eclipses “broken sun” – may have used dark volcanic glass to protect their eyes, said archaeologist Arturo Montero of Tepeyac University in Mexico City.
Towns and national parks along the way are preparing to welcome huge crowds. Officials in Klamath County, Oregon, urged residents to stock up on supplies and fill their gas tanks in case traffic backs up on its two-lane highways. Bryce Canyon, Utah, expects Saturday to be the busiest day of the year for the park, and officials at Balloon Fiesta Park in Albuquerque said it will likely be a record attendance.
Brazil’s Pedra da Boca National Park, known for its rocky outcrops ideal for climbing and abseiling, was also expecting a crowd.
The entire eclipse – from the time the moon begins to obscure the sun until it returns to normal – lasts two and a half to three hours in any given location. The fire circle portion lasts three to five minutes, depending on the location.
Next April, a total solar eclipse will sweep across the United States in the opposite direction. It will start in Mexico and go from Texas to New England before ending in eastern Canada.
The next ring of fire eclipse will take place in October next year, at the southern tip of South America. Antarctica will have one in 2026. It will be 2039 before another ring of fire is visible in the United States, and Alaska will be the only state in its direct path.
Oyan reported from Albuquerque, New Mexico. AP reporters Patrick Whittle in Portland, Maine; Susan Montoya Bryan in Albuquerque, New Mexico; Brady McCombs in Garfield County, Utah; Astrid Suarez in Bogota, Colombia; María Verza in Cancún, Mexico; and Mauricio Savarese in Sao Paulo, Brazil, contributed to this report.
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