ONCE IN A LIFETIME: Spectacular sight of 'ring of fire' in the sky from Asia to US
LOS ANGELES: MILLIONS of sky-gazers got the spectacle of a lifetime as a "ring of fire" solar eclipse crossed the Pacific from Asia to the United States, where it triggered whoops at festive viewing parties.
The annular eclipse was visible in western US from California to Texas late on Sunday and in parts of China, Taiwan and Japan yesterday, making a 13,600km arc across the Pacific.
"It was awesome," said schoolboy Marcos Doporto in Albuquerque, New Mexico, one of the biggest US cities on the exact path of the full "ring of fire" eclipse, visible for four minutes at its peak.
In Asia, clouds across much of southeastern China prevented a clear view, with some early risers in Hong Kong able to see only a small sliver of the "annular" eclipse and others coming away disappointed.
An annular eclipse occurs when the moon passes in front of the sun, but is too far from the Earth to block it out completely, leaving the "ring of fire" visible.
However, many in Tokyo got a spectacular sight as the sprawling Japanese capital of 30 million people received its first glimpse of the phenomenon in 173 years.
Sadanobu Takahashi, 60, from Akita prefecture, said he and his wife joined a two-day tour to watch the eclipse from the top of a 54-storey building in Tokyo.
"Look! Now it's a perfect ring. How wonderful!" he cried out.
Japan's major television stations cut live to the once-in-a-lifetime event, which has generated a mini-boom in spending on special tour packages and viewing glasses.
One Japanese zoo reported that the eclipse sent about 20 ring-tailed lemurs into a frenzy, as they were fooled into thinking it was night-time. "This is a behaviour that they usually take in the evening, so that they raise their body temperature," said zoo director Akira Kato.
One of the best spots in North America to see the full ring of fire effect was the tiny town of Kanarraville, Utah, where the local population of 350 was invaded by thousands of eclipse-watchers.
Further west here, thousands were gathered for the viewing party at the Griffith Observatory.
In the cloudless skies over southern California, the eclipse peaked at 86 per cent of the solar diameter, still blinding to the naked eye, but like a reverse crescent moon when viewed through a solar filter.
The observatory ran out of US$3 (RM9) eclipse glasses two days before the event. AFP