The first solar eclipse of the year occurred Thursday morning, visible throughout the state for early risers.

The eclipse was a sunrise event, with the moon passing between the Earth and sun, roughly between 5 and 6:30 a.m. However, it wasn’t a total eclipse because the moon’s distance from Earth made it appear smaller than the sun, leaving behind a visible annulus or “ring of fire.”

“Since the moon does not block the entire view of the sun, it will look like a dark disk on top of a larger, bright disk. This creates what looks like a ring of fire around the moon,” NASA said on its website.

The entire event was anticipated to last just over 90 minutes, although the period where the moon lines up directly with the sun was just about four minutes.

Those in the Northeast, including Maine residents, were not able to see the “ring of fire” phenomenon because of the moon’s path, but instead got a partial eclipse, which looks like the moon has taken a bite out of the sun.

Shawn Laatch, director of the Versant Power Astronomy Center & Jordan Planetarium at the University of Maine, said on Wednesday the sun would roughly 80 percent covered at the eclipse’s peak in Maine, which is a significant partial eclipse.

“I would certainly encourage folks to get out and try to view this eclipse safely if they have the opportunity,” he said.

Rob Burgess, president of the nonprofit Southern Maine Astronomers, said Wednesday he planned to join a group of watchers on Eastern Promenade in Portland.

“It’s a pretty cool thing if you recognize that these are celestial bodies in motion,” he said. “With so much of the night sky, you don’t see this level of motion, but with an eclipse, motion is very evident.”

Burgess said the best opportunity for viewing was before sunrise, in a place with a clear view of the horizon facing northeast. The sun rose at 4:59 a.m. on Thursday.

“The sun will rise above the horizon already partially eclipsed and then proceed for about a half hour toward the maximum amount,” he said. “We expect to get to about 75 percent coverage of sun by the moon’s disk and then the moon will drift across the sun and eventually leave the surface. The last point of contact will be about 6:30.

“The first half hour is probably going to be the most exciting because the sun will become increasingly eclipsed.”

Thursday’s event might not be as dramatic or noteworthy as the most recent total solar eclipse that occurred in 2017. Burgess said he drove to Illinois for that to get the best possible view.

“It was spectacular,” he said. “Just amazing.”

Mainers won’t have to wait that long for the next one, either. A total solar eclipse is set to take place in April 2024, Burgess said, and Maine is likely to be one of the best spots for viewing.


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