20 May 2012 Solar Eclipse Pictures

Skywatchers from Mount Fuji to the Grand Canyon enjoyed a treat: the moon nearly blotting out the sun to create a dramatic 'ring of fire' over a narrow strip of eastern Asia and the western United States. The annular eclipse, in which the moon passes in front of the sun leaving only a golden ring around its edges, was visible in Asia early Monday. It then moved across the Pacific - and the international dateline - and was seen in parts of the western United States Sunday afternoon.

In Japan, 'eclipse tours' were arranged at schools and parks, on pleasure boats and even private airplanes. Similar events were held in China and Taiwan as well, with skywatchers warned to protect their eyes.

In the U.S., viewing parties were held at observatories in Reno, Nevada, and Oakland, California, and elsewhere. In some areas, special camera filters for taking photographs have been sold out for weeks in anticipation of the big event.

The ring of fire: the rare annular eclipse as seen from Albequerqe, New Mexico, one of the western states where it was most visible

Stunning: The unusual event stood out against the evening sky in Odessa, Texas

Partial eclipse: The moon moving between the earth and the sun, blocking out some of the light

Clear: Cloudless skies above the Grand Canyon allowed observers a great view of the astronomic event
People from Colorado, Oklahoma and as far away as Canada traveled to Albuquerque to enjoy one of the best vantage points at a park on the edge of the city.

Members of the crowd smiled and cheered and children yelled with excitement as the moon crossed the sun and the blazing halo of light began to form. Some watched the eclipse by placing their viewing glasses on the front of their smartphones.

Eventually, the moon centered and covered about 96 percent of the sun.

'That's got to be the prettiest thing I've ever seen,' said Brent Veltri of Salida, Colorado.

Excitement: A family watches the eclipse from Chico, California - with the precaution of special lenses

Hi-tech: A man uses a special film to protect his tablet computer as he photographs the eclipse

Even pets need protection: A dog decked out in stylish but practical eyewear to enable him to watch the eclipse from Tokyo

The eclipse was broadcast live on TV in Tokyo, where such an eclipse hasn't been visible since 1839. Japanese TV crews watched from the top of Mount Fuji and even staked out a zoo south of Tokyo to capture the reaction of the chimpanzees - who didn't seem to notice.

A light rain fell on Tokyo as the eclipse began, but the clouds thinned as it reached its peak, providing near perfect conditions.

'It was a very mysterious sight,' said Kaori Sasaki, who joined a crowd in downtown Tokyo to watch event. 'I've never seen anything like it.'

Progression: This image shows how the sky changed above the Pueblo Bonito ancient building at Chaco Culture National Historical Park in Nageezi, Arizona

Phases: A composite image of the annular eclipse as seen from Tokyo on Sunday night

At the Taipei Astronomical Museum in Taiwan, the spectacle emerged from dark clouds for only about 30 seconds. But the view was nearly perfect against Manila's orange skies.

'It's amazing. We do this for the awe [and] it has not disappointed. I am awed, literally floored,' said astronomical hobbyist Garry Andreassen, whose long camera lenses were lined up with those of about 10 other gazers in a downtown Manila park.

Hong Kong skywatchers weren't so lucky.

The big C: The annular solar eclipse is spotted in the sky above Chandler, Arizona

Fire in the sky: This photo shows the solar eclipse from downtown Fort Worth, Texas

Several hundred people gathered along the Kowloon waterfront on Hong Kong's famed Victoria Harbor, most of them students or commuters on their way to work. The eclipse was already underway as the sun began to rise, but heavy clouds obstructed the view.

The eclipse followed a narrow 8,500-mile path for 3 1/2 hours. The ring phenomenon lasted about five minutes, depending on location. People outside the narrow band for prime viewing saw a partial eclipse.

'Ring of Fire' eclipses are not as dramatic as a total eclipse, when the disc of the sun is entirely blocked by the moon. The moon is too far from Earth and appears too small in the sky to blot out the sun completely.

What a sight: An aeroplane flies past the annular solar eclipse from Taguig city, east of Manila, Philippines

Light show: The eclipse is seen reflected in a pool of water in Beijing, China

Doctors and education officials have warned of eye injuries from improper viewing. Before the event started, Japan's Education Minister Hirofumi Hirano demonstrated how to use eclipse glasses in a televised news conference. Police also cautioned against traffic accidents - warning drivers to keep their eyes on the road.

Sky stunner: The solar eclipse, in which the moon passes in front of the sun leaving only a golden ring around its edges, is seen briefly during a break in clouds over Taipei, Taiwan

'I've never seen anything like it': A partial eclipse is seen from Tokyo as the sun and moon aligned over the earth in the rare astronomical event

View: A plane flies above the annular solar eclipse in a stunning image from Irving, Texas

Path: The eclipse begins in eastern Asia on Monday then crosses the north Pacific to end in western U.S.