Rare ‘ring of fire’ solar eclipse on the longest day of the year

A shimmering ring of light flashed into view on Sunday in parts of the eastern hemisphere as the moon drifted across the face of the sun in a rare eclipse on the longest day of the year.

The path of the eclipse spanned East Asia, South Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Most locations saw only a partial eclipse, with just a handful witnessing the true “ring of fire”.

Unlike in a total eclipse, the moon in an annular, or ring-like, eclipse is unable to completely cover the sun, leaving a thin halo of light at its maximum phase.

Such an eclipse happens when the moon is farther away in its elliptical orbit around the Earth, appearing smaller as a result.

Solar eclipses on the summer solstice are rare. The last one was in June 2001.

But a “ring of fire” eclipse that falls exactly in midsummer – whether in the northern or southern hemisphere – is even more uncommon.

There have been none in at least 100 years, according to calculations based on NASA data.

The next one is in 2039, and then in 2392.