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Thousands marvel at ‘ring of fire’

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Many in Singapore raise their eyes to the skies to catch rare annular solar eclipse

It is been nearly 70 years since Madam Lu Lizhu last saw an eclipse and that was "a very different experience" from yesterday's marvel.

"I was in my teens then," she told The Straits Times at the amphitheatre in front of Block 134 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3.

"When the eclipse happened, my dad told me to bring out the drums into the street so we could make as much noise as possible to save the Moon. It was what we believed in the kampung."

Madam Lu, 80, is one of thousands across the island who raised their eyes to the skies to catch the annular solar eclipse yesterday.


A loud cheer rose from the 4,500 or so onlookers at the Science Centre Singapore in Jurong as the Moon moved to obscure the Sun at 1.24pm and form a "ring of fire", in what has been dubbed the "greatest astronomical event in Singapore".

Thousands marvel at ‘ring of fire’

Many came with young children and elderly parents to the centre, one of several popular viewing spots.

People began queuing at 9am for the 6,000 or so solar viewing glasses available. These were sold out by 1.15pm.

The science centre staff were stationed at 12 telescopes set up near the centre's Ecogarden to help people adjust the settings for "a sight to behold".

Some brought hats, mats, stools and umbrellas for the wait under the hot sun before the eclipse began at about 11.30am.

It peaked at 1.23pm, where 94 per cent of the Sun was obscured, leaving its outer edges visible in a "ring of fire" while casting a shadow that momentarily dimmed the island.

The phenomenon lasted until about 3.20pm.

Others intent on recording the moment came armed with telescopes on tripod stands to photograph the rare sight.

"It's much better when you see it with your own eyes rather than on television or in photos," said Ms Nurul Huda, 27, who was at the science centre for her first astronomy event.

The annular solar eclipse occurs when the Moon covers the centre of the Sun, giving the appearance of a fiery ring around it.

It differs from a total solar eclipse in that the Moon covers the Sun's centre but is too far from the Earth to entirely blot out the Sun, resulting in a dark circle bordered by the "ring of fire".

The sight in the Singapore sky was visible for the first time in two decades and will next appear in 2063.


Associate Professor Lim Tit Meng, chief executive of the science centre, said: "It is a once-in-a-lifetime sight for many and the large turnout at the Science Centre's viewing events underpins how people are naturally curious about what lies beyond."

Mr Alfred Tan, 59, vice-principal of administration at National Junior College (NJC) and a solar astronomer with 10 years of experience, was slightly disappointed that clouds had partially obscured the eclipse at one point.

But the most important thing was not about witnessing the eclipse, but providing people the opportunity to learn and spend good quality time with their friends and family.

"This is what motivates me," he said, referring to his overnight stay at the school to set up all the solar telescopes.

His school's eclipse viewing event was organised with the help of 44 student volunteers from NJC's basketball club. - ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY CLEMENT YONG