A "ring of fire" is going to decorate the beautiful sky on Sept. 1, as the moon gracefully glides between the Earth and the sun.
This celestial event is called annular solar eclipse. While the moon will pass by the sun, it will not block it completely, instead leaving a bright yellow circular ring around it. People living in equatorial Africa will be able to witness the rare spectacle set to happen in one day.
The annular solar eclipse can be witnessed in Gabon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo, Mozambique and Tanzania. The eclipse will reportedly begin at 8:39 a.m. and end by 2:09 p.m. while the "ring of fire" will be witnessed at 10:06 a.m. local time.
The annular solar eclipse happens every 18 months. The last eclipse, which occurred on April 19, 2014, was visible in Australia and the next eclipse that will occur on Feb. 26, 2017 will be visible in the eastern parts of South America. The United States will witness the total solar eclipse in August 2017 for the first time in 37 years.
Solar and lunar are the two types of eclipse experienced on Earth. Solar eclipse occurs when the moon comes between the sun and the planet. Solar eclipse in turn has three types: total, annular and partial. In total solar eclipse the moon blocks the sun completely while in partial solar eclipse the moon covers a portion of the sun's disc.
As far as annular solar eclipse is concerned, though the sun and the moon align on the same plane the moon doesn't blot the sun completely. A bright ring of sunlight is visible from beyond the moon. The distance between Earth and the moon is the reason behind the event.
Since the moon travels in elliptical orbit around Earth, the distance between the two celestial bodies vary from time to time. When the moon is at the farthest point possible from Earth (apogee), the moon appears smaller in size and doesn't block the sun completely. As a result, the moon that appears small in size covers the larger sun on the same plane, leaving the border of the sun uncovered. Eventually, a bright circular ring is visible during the eclipse.
"If they look up with protective eyewear they are going to see this strange ring in the sky, more spectacularly they will see these circular shadows," said C. Alex Young, a solar astrophysicist from NASA. "It's a cool event, the shadows are kind of eerie."
Photo: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center | Flickr