THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, India: A solar eclipse that reduced the sun to a blazing ring surrounding a sombre disc plunged millions of people in Africa and Asia into an eerie semi-darkness yesterday. The spectacle, visible in a roughly 300km band running 12,900km across the globe, set a record for the longest annular eclipse that will remain unbeaten for more than a thousand years.
An annular eclipse occurs when the Moon passes directly in front of the Sun but does not completely obscure it, thus leaving a ring - an annulus - of sunlight flaring around the lunar disc.
The Moon's shadow first struck the southwestern tip of Chad and western Central African Republic at 0514 GMT.
Local media in affected areas issued warnings about the dangers of looking directly at the sun, but fascinated onlookers thronged streets to witness the celestial phenomenon.
Veteran eclipse chaser Daniel Fischer from German astronomy magazine Interstellarum picked a vantage spot on a cliff in Varkala, 62km north of the city of Thiruvananthapuram in the Indian state of Kerala.
The maximum duration of "annularity" - the time the moon is in front of the sun - was 11 minutes, eight seconds at 0706 GMT, making it "the longest annular eclipse of the 3rd Millennium," according to Nasa.
Only on December 23, 3043 will this record be beaten.