Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

'Ring of fire' eclipse a delight Down Under

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SYDNEY, Australia -- Skygazers across the Australian Outback were among the lucky few to witness a solar eclipse today as the moon glided between the Earth and the sun, blocking everything but a dazzling ring of light.

The celestial spectacle, known as a "ring of fire" eclipse, is the second solar eclipse visible from northern Australia in six months. In November, a total solar eclipse plunged the country's northeast into darkness, delighting astronomers and tourists who flocked to the region from across the globe.

Friday's eclipse, also called an annular solar eclipse, is not considered as scientifically important or dramatic as November's, because the moon is too far from Earth -- and therefore appears too small -- to completely black out the sun. Unlike a total solar eclipse, which essentially turns day into night, an annular eclipse just dims the sunlight.

"A total eclipse is overall far more spectacular, far more emotional," said Andrew Jacob, an astronomer at Sydney Observatory. Still, he said, today's eclipse "will give you a nice ring of sunlight in the sky -- it will be quite different."

At outposts across Australia, scientists and spectators gathered to watch as the eclipse began casting its approximately 200-kilometre-wide shadow at dawn over Western Australia, before moving east through the Northern Territory and the top of Queensland state.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 10, 2013 A2

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