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Viewers in parts of Australia and Indonesia saw this rare hybrid solar eclipse

The sun and moon are photographed near Exmouth, Australia, during a solar eclipse on Thursday, April 20, 2023. The lucky few in the path of the hybrid solar eclipse will either get plunged into the darkness of a total eclipse or they'll see a "ring of fire" as the sun peeks out from behind the moon.
Aaron Bunch
/
AP
The sun and moon are photographed near Exmouth, Australia, during a solar eclipse on Thursday, April 20, 2023. The lucky few in the path of the hybrid solar eclipse will either get plunged into the darkness of a total eclipse or they'll see a "ring of fire" as the sun peeks out from behind the moon.

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Under a cloudless sky, about 20,000 eclipse chasers watched a rare solar eclipse plunge part of Australia's northwest coast into brief midday darkness Thursday with an accompanying temperature drop.

The remote tourist town of Exmouth, with fewer than 3,000 residents, was promoted as one of the best vantage points in Australia to see the eclipse that also crossed remote parts of Indonesia and East Timor.

An international crowd had been gathering for days, camping in tents and trailers on a red, dusty plain on the edge of town with cameras and other viewing equipment pointed skyward.

NASA astronomer Henry Throop was among those at Exmouth cheering loudly in the darkness.

"Isn't it incredible? This is so fantastic. It was mind-blowing. It was so sharp and it was so bright. You could see the corona around the sun there," the visibly excited Washington resident said.

"It's only a minute long, but it really felt like a long time. There's nothing else you can see which looks like that. It was just awesome. Spectacular. And then you could see Jupiter and Mercury and to be able to see those at the same time during the day — even seeing Mercury at all is pretty rare. So that was just awesome," Throop added.

Julie Copson, who traveled more than 1,000 km (600 miles) from the Australian west coast port city of Fremantle north to Exmouth, said the phenomenon left her skin tingling.

People wear protective glasses as they look up at a solar eclipse in Exmouth, Australia, Thursday, April 20, 2023.
Aaron Bunch / AP
/
AP
People wear protective glasses as they look up at a solar eclipse in Exmouth, Australia, Thursday, April 20, 2023.

"I feel so emotional, like I could cry. The color changed and seeing the corona and sun flares ...," Copson said.

"It was very strong and the temperature dropped so much," she added, referring to a sudden 5 degree Celsius (9 degree Fahrenheit) fall in temperature when the moon's shadow enveloped the region.

In Indonesia's capital, hundreds came to the Jakarta Planetarium to see the partial eclipse that was obscured by clouds.

Azka Azzahra, 21, came with her sister and friends to get a closer look by using the telescopes with hundreds of other visitors.

"I am still happy to come even though it is cloudy. It is happy to see how people with high enthusiasm come here to see the eclipse, because it is rare," Azzahra said.

The call to prayer resounded from the city's mosques when the eclipse phase began as Muslims said eclipse prayers as a reminder of God's greatness.

Indonesian youths wear protective glasses to watch solar eclipse in Jakarta, Indonesia, Thursday, April 20, 2023.
Tatan Syuflana / AP
/
AP
Indonesian youths wear protective glasses to watch solar eclipse in Jakarta, Indonesia, Thursday, April 20, 2023.

The hybrid solar eclipse tracked from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific Ocean and was mostly over water. The lucky few people in its path either saw the darkness of a total eclipse or a "ring of fire" as the sun peeked from behind the new moon.

A hybrid eclipse is a type of solar eclipse that looks either like an annular solar eclipse, when the moon covers only the center of the sun, or a total solar eclipse, when the moon covers the sun in its entirety.

Such celestial events happen about once every decade: The last one was in 2013 and the next one isn't until 2031. They occur when Earth is in the "sweet spot" so the moon and the sun are almost the exact same size in the sky, said NASA solar expert Michael Kirk.

At some points, the moon is a little closer and blocks out the sun in a total eclipse. But when the moon is a little farther away, it lets some of the sun's light peek out in an annular eclipse.

"It's a crazy phenomenon," Kirk said. "You're actually watching the moon get larger in the sky."

Several other upcoming solar eclipses will be easier to catch. An annular eclipse in mid-October and a total eclipse next April will both cross over millions of people in the Americas.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

A partial solar eclipse is seen through the cloud over Jakarta, Indonesia, Thursday, April 20, 2023.
Tatan Syuflana / AP
/
AP
A partial solar eclipse is seen through the cloud over Jakarta, Indonesia, Thursday, April 20, 2023.

The Associated Press
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