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Slooh view of solar eclipse
A series of images shows the progression of the Sept. 1 annular solar eclipse as seen from Reunion Island. (Credit: Slooh / Weathernews Japan)

An annular solar eclipse swept across Africa today, treating skywatchers to a “Ring of Fire” eclipse and whetting appetites for next August’s all-American total eclipse.

The eclipse occurred in the middle of the night, Seattle time, but it was prime time for a roughly 100-mile wide swath of territory stretching from Gabon on Africa’s west coast to Mozambique, Madagascar and Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean.Those places are where the “Ring of Fire” effect was visible in all its glory.

Annular solar eclipses are similar to total eclipses, except that the orbital positions of the sun, moon and Earth are such that the moon doesn’t quite cover up all of the solar disk. As a result, the dark moon is surrounded by a blazing O.

About 3,000 eclipse fans gathered on Reunion Island to witness the spectacle, Reuters reported. “I saw a solar eclipse … but I have never seen an annular solar eclipse,” Austrian tourist Beate Sosz was quoted as saying. “It is great.”

The eclipse’s partial phase was visible throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Residents were cautioned to use eye protection during all phases of the eclipse. Here’s a selection of photos and tweets:

Another annular eclipse will be visible from parts of Argentina, Chile, Angola, Zambia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Atlantic and Pacific oceans next Feb. 26.

Then, on Aug. 21, observers in North America will have their turn. A total eclipse will be visible along a path running from the Oregon coast to South Carolina. It’s not too early to start thinking about where to go – and where to get your eclipse glasses.

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