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Millions looked to the sky for 'ring of fire' solar eclipse

May 20, 2012 |  8:41 pm


Millions of people from Japan to Redding, Calif., went out of their way to look at the "ring of fire" solar eclipse Sunday. The eclipse was met with a festive atmosphere: People held viewing parties and converged at parks and on rooftops.

In California, good weather provided some of the best views.

The partial solar eclipse reached its peak in Los Angeles at 6:38 p.m., and visitors at the Griffith Observatory counted down the seconds at the top of their lungs before letting out a wail of excitement.

"The light is dimmer. The air is cooler," a woman said over a loudspeaker. "Nature gets a little strange during an eclipse."

Ryan Berg, 20, of Los Angeles watched the crescent-shaped image of the sun through a massive telescope. "That is so cool! Look at that," he said. "The light is so thin and wavy."

Observatory spokeswoman Susan Szotyori said more than 3,000 people watched the eclipse from the institute's mountaintop perch.

Some visitors decided to avoid the long lines for telescopes and watch the partial solar eclipse with homemade devices.

"We tried to buy special glasses and called five or 10 places, but everything was sold out," said Julie Lim of Arcadia, who used a pinhole viewer made out of cardboard packaging that came with gift wrap. She said it was the perfect way to help her 8-year-old daughter Iris monitor the eclipse's progress.

"We wanted to show our daughter that you need to think about what you can accomplish with your own hands without relying on anyone else," Lim said.

In Japan, Anthony Weiss, a native of Florida, faced clouds in his Tokyo neighborhood and feared he wouldn't be able to see the "ring" eclipse, when the moon blocks all but the sun's outer edge.

But the clouds lightened up just enough for him to see the spectacle, which he photographed with his 8-year-old Canon PowerShot SD300.

"I could very clearly see the ring," Weiss told The Times.

Conditions were not so good atop Mt. Fuji, where Panasonic, trying to showcase its solar technology, had hired a team of climbers to broadcast the eclipse from Japan's tallest peak. The crew faced a windy snowstorm and battled to keep their footing.

And in Hong Kong, a storm ruined the view. "Cloudy in Hong Kong, no luck for the solar #eclipse, so sad," tweeted @hanggyho.

In Los Angeles, the partial eclipse was captured in backyards, roofs and parks -- as well as from such landmarks as Staples Center before the Clippers game, Dodger Stadium, Hollywood Boulevard and Griffith Park and even on freeways.

-- Garrett Therolf and Rong-Gong Lin II


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Photo credit: Hector Becerra / Los Angeles Times