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'Ring of Fire' eclipse delights millions in Asia, US (+video)

A solar eclipse was visible to millions Sunday when the moon hid the sun, creating a 'ring of fire.' It was the first annular eclipse seen in Japan since 1839, and it was broadcast live on TV.

By Eric Talmadge and Susan Montoya BryanAssociated Press / May 21, 2012

The moon slides across the sun, showing a blazing halo of light, during an annular solar eclipse near Tokyo, Monday, May 21, 2012. Millions of Asians watched as a rare "ring of fire" eclipse crossed their skies early Monday.

(AP Photo/Shuji Kajiyama)

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Albuquerque, New Mexico

From a park near Albuquerque, to the top of Japan's Mount Fuji, to the California coast the effect was dramatic: The moon nearly blotting out the sun creating a blazing "ring of fire" eclipse.

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Ring of Fire solar eclipse

Millions of people across a narrow strip of eastern Asia and the Western U.S. turned their sights skyward for the annular eclipse, in which the moon passes in front of the sun leaving only a golden ring around its edges.

The rare lunar-solar alignment was visible in Asia early Monday before it moved across the Pacific — and the international dateline — where it was seen in parts of the western United States late Sunday afternoon.

IN PICTURES: Solar Eclipse

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.

Elsewhere, viewing parties were held at observatories in Reno, Nevada, and Oakland, California, while skywatchers gathered in coastal and forest counties in California. In some areas, special camera filters for taking photographs have been sold out for weeks in anticipation of the big event.

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.

Eclipse tours were arranged in Japan 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.

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