This Thursday, the Sun really had a rendezvous with the Moon. The inhabitants of the northern hemisphere were indeed able to admire in the sky, while protecting their eyes, a partial solar eclipse which traveled a strip of about 500 km, from Canada to Siberia, via Europe. At the maximum of this so-called annular eclipse, the Moon slipped slowly in front of the Sun, allowing a thin luminous ring to appear for a few moments behind its black disc, called a “circle of fire”.
This beautiful spectacle was reserved for the few inhabitants of the highest latitudes, located in the centrality band of the phenomenon, or about 2% of the earth’s surface: north-west of Canada, far-north of Russia, north-west of Greenland. … Above Qaanaq, Greenland, the northernmost village on the planet, the occultation of the disc was close to 90%.
16% occultation in the North of France
The phenomenon was still visible, but only partially, over North America, a large part of Europe, including France and Great Britain, as well as part of the North of the ‘Asia. It lasted about two hours between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. in mainland France, with a maximum between 11:55 a.m. and 12:20 p.m. Curious and astronomical enthusiasts have had to protect their eyes with special glasses, or observe the event by projection, because looking directly at the Sun can cause irreversible retinal burns.
In London, where the Moon has hidden 20% of the Sun, observers were able to see the eclipse through the clouds. In France, occultation was at its strongest in the North, up to 16% in Lille. In Arras in the Pas-de-Calais, around a hundred people flocked to the Place de la Gare to contemplate the eclipse via a “solarscope”, an instrument that projects sunlight onto a white screen, testified Florent Deleflie, astronomer at the Paris-PSL Observatory, at the initiative of this event.
A total eclipse on December 4
This is the first annular eclipse of the year 2021, and the sixteenth of the 21st century. This astronomical phenomenon occurs during the New Moon period, when Earth, Moon and Sun are perfectly aligned. If the apparent diameter of the Moon is less than that of the Sun, part of the crown of fire remains visible.
A total eclipse, which briefly plunges part of the planet into darkness, occurs when the diameter of the Moon exactly matches that of the Sun, as seen from Earth. This rarer phenomenon was notably observable from France in August 1999. The next total eclipse will take place on December 4, but will only be visible from Antarctica.