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2012 Solar Eclipse: Rare Ring of Fire Seen by Many

In Hermosa Beach, onlookers got a great view of the astronomical event through a thick marine layer.

Thousands of people throughout Southern California went outside Sunday to take in the awe-inspiring view of a late afternoon eclipse.

In Hermosa Beach, many viewed the eclipse through a cloudy marine layer. Several local sky watchers quickly shared their pictures on line via social networks. 

The eclipse started at 5:24 p.m. and ended at 7:42 p.m., according to Griffith Observatory officials. However, the eclipse was also visible from parts of China, northern Taiwan and southern Japan.

Eclipses happen when the moon passes between the sun and Earth. An annular eclipse, which is the kind that occurred Sunday, alludes to the ring shape the sun takes on.

The annulus or the shape is a kind of illusion created when the apparent diameter of the moon is smaller than that of the sun as its path aligns with the Earth. Annulus means "little ring" in Latin. The last annular solar eclipse in the U.S. occurred nearly two decades ago, on May 10, 1994

At maximum peak at 6:38 p.m., Sunday’s eclipse made 85 percent of the sun invisible to greater Los Angeles. It was the most complete solar eclipse this region will experience until 2071, when a 91-percent eclipse will be seen, according to a variety of sources.

Astronomers also predict a 78-percent solar eclipse to happen here on Oct. 14, 2023, and back-to-back 83-percent eclipses to be on display Aug. 22, 2044 and Aug. 12, 2045.

A throng of eclipse-watchers congregated on the grounds of Griffith Observatory, where telescopes were set up and staff members offered commentary on the rare event.

Thousands of people took to the coasts to get a glimpse of the eclipse, including at Venice Beach, where onlookers created a celebratory atmosphere. In Hermosa Beach many attended eclipse themed parties or just took to the beach to catch a glimpse of the astronomical event.

The last time such an event took place in this region was in 1992, observatory curator Laura Danly told City News Service.

“We depend on the sun to be there the same way every day, so when something happens to disrupt the sun and it gets blacked out, it's kind of freaky,'' Danly told CNS.

Long ago, before science explained such events, eclipses were unsettling occurrences to people who viewed them. For the Navajo the word for eclipse means “eating the sun”. The tribe considered the event auspicious and many of its members will not only avoid catching a glimpse of the ring of fire, but will fast and cease activities altogether.

“For people who didn't know what it was, it was frightening,'' Danly told CNS.

--City News Service contributed to this report--

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