Millions witness ‘Ring of Fire’ across Pakistan on longest day of year

An annular solar eclipse, also called the ‘Ring of Fire’, was visible on Sunday across Pakistan as well as in parts of Africa, northern India and China.

Millions witness ‘Ring of Fire’ across Pakistan on longest day of year

The eclipse would be visible for a few hours, meteorologists had said earlier, adding that it will reach its peak at around 11:40am and it was the longest day of the year.

In Sukkur, the sun was hidden the most – 98.78 per cent – at 11:07am. It was followed by Gwadar, where the moon covered 97pc of the sun by 10:48am.

The eclipse was also visible in Islamabad from 9:50am to 1:36pm (peak at 11:25am), in Karachi from 9:26am to 12:46pm (peak at 10:59am), in Lahore from 9:48am to 1:10pm (peak at 11:26am), in Peshawar from 9:48am to 1:02pm (peak at 11:21am), Quetta from 9:35am to 12:49pm (peak at 11:06am), Gilgit from 9:56am to 1:08pm (peak at 11:30am) and in Muzaffarabad from 9:52am to 1:07pm (peak at 11:26am).

The annular eclipse was also seen in India, Egypt, Israel, Kenya and Bahrain among other countries.

“An annular solar eclipse occurs when the Moon covers the Sun’s centre, leaving the Sun’s outer edges to form a ‘ring of fire’, or annulus, aro­u­nd the Moon,” Nadeem Faisal, who heads the Met department’s climate data processing centre, had reportedly said.

This is the first of the two solar eclipses that will be seen this year. The second eclipse will occur on December 14, but it will not be visible in Pakistan.

Fawad Chaudhry, the federal Minister for Science and Technology, had cautioned the public against looking directly at the eclipse as it can damage the eyes.

“You can seriously hurt your eyes and even go blind. While watching a partial eclipse proper eye protection, like eclipse glasses or a sun filter, is the only safe option. Sunglasses do not work,” the Ministry of Science and Technology said in an advisory on Friday.

Chief consultant at Al Shifa Trust Eye Hospital, Dr Nadeem Qureshi urged the public to take precautions for themselves and their children.

Dr Qureshi said ultraviolet rays can cause severe and permanent damage to the eyes by causing a burn on the central part of the retina. People are advised not to go outside during the solar eclipse and not to look directly at the sun, even when wearing protective glasses, he said.

He added that people should restrict children to their homes and, if necessary to go out, wear UV-blocking sunglasses and a hat as protection.

Meanwhile, Skywatchers along a narrow band from West Africa to the Arabian Peninsula, India and southern China also witnessed the dramatic “Ring of Fire” solar eclipse.

So-called annular eclipses occur when the Moon — passing between Earth and the Sun — is not quite close enough to our planet to completely obscure sunlight, leaving a thin ring of the solar disc visible.

They happen every year or two, and can only been seen from a narrow pathway across the planet.

Were the Moon just a wee bit closer — 379,100 rather than 381,500 kilometres away — Earthlings were treated to a total blackout, visible at a given spot on our planet about every 400 years.

Remarkably, the eclipse Sunday arrived on the northern hemisphere’s longest day of the year — the summer solstice — when Earth’s North Pole is tilted most directly towards the Sun.

“The annular eclipse is visible from about two percent of Earth surface,” Florent Delefie, an astronomer and the Paris Observatory, told AFP.

“It’s a bit like switching from a 500-watt to a 30-watt light bulb,” he added. “It’s a cold light, and you don’t see as well.”

Animals can get spooked — birds will sometimes go back to sleep, and cows will return to the barn.

The full eclipse was visible at successive locations over a period of nearly four hours, and one of the last places to see a partially hidden Sun was Taiwan before.

People hundreds of kilometres on either side of the centreline across 14 countries also saw light drain from the day, but not the “Ring of Fire”.

A solar eclipse always occurs about two weeks before or after a lunar eclipse, when the Moon moves into Earth’s shadow. Lunar eclipses are visible from about half of Earth’s surface.

There will be a second solar eclipse in 2020 on December 14 over South America. Because the Moon will be a bit closer to Earth, it will block on the Sun’s light entirely