Washington/Mumbai: Sunday February 26 brings the first solar eclipse of 2017. Unlike the total solar eclipse, Sunday's spectacle is an annular eclipse called 'Ring of fire', which means a sliver of the sun's surface will still be visible around the moon.
The moon will appear to block varying amounts of the sun depending on where you are located within the eclipse visibility zone. For those who are properly positioned, the dark disk of the moon will briefly be surrounded by a dazzling "ring of fire" as the lunar disk passes squarely in front of the sun, space.com reported.
"Skywatchers positioned outside this path can still enjoy a partial solar eclipse. This spectacle will be visible to more than half a billion people living across the lower two-thirds of South America as well as the western and southern portions of Africa, as well as the sparse population in about half of Antarctica", it said.
In India, the 'Ring of Fire' - the partial eclipse, will only be visible in southern parts of the country. The eclipse will roughly start at around 03:15 pm and will continue till 09:45 pm.
Solar eclipse takes place only once a year as the moon and the sun do not orbit in the exact same plane.
"The moon blocks the light of the sun's surface very, very precisely you can see all the way down to the roots of the corona, where the atmosphere meets the sun's surface," said NASA scientist Sarah Jaeggli.
Sunday's annular eclipse will also provide a practice run for scientists hoping to gather data during the fleeting moments of the total solar eclipse that will cross the U.S on August 21, 2017.
An annular eclipse is the product of almost the same celestial geometry as a total solar eclipse – that is, from the perspective of some place on Earth, the moon crosses in front of the sun’s center.
"During the total solar eclipse that will take place in August, scientists positioned across the U.S. will be scrambling to gather data in the 2 minutes or so that the moon covers the entire disc of the sun.
"There is a wealth of science that can be done during an eclipse, including studying how the sudden darkening of the sky changes conditions on Earth (such as rapid drops in air temperature)", according to space.com.
A total eclipse also provides a totally unique view of the sun's outer atmosphere, called the corona.
First total penumbral eclipse of 2017 was also seen in February. Millions of skywatchers around the world including India, saw on Saturday February 11, the partial lunar eclipse.
A total penumbral eclipse is a lunar eclipse that occurs when the moon becomes completely immersed in the penumbral cone of the Earth without touching the umbra. It is a narrow path for the moon to pass within the penumbra and outside the umbra. It can happen on the Earth's northern or southern penumbral edges.