Asia’s eclipse watchers are more fascinating than the eclipse itself

We’re all alike in enjoying a good eclipse.
We’re all alike in enjoying a good eclipse.
Image: Antara Foto/Abriawan Abhe/via Reuters
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The last eclipse of the decade is taking place in the sky above a roughly 73-mile-wide path running across the Middle East and South Asia.

The celestial event is dubbed a “ring of fire” eclipse for the amazing pattern it creates. Here’s what is actually happening: The moon is passing in front of the sun while at its furthest distance from Earth in its elliptical orbit, making it small enough in the sky that it doesn’t totally obscure the sun as it crosses it. Instead, it leaves a thin blazing ring—a spectacular sight topped only by the images of the people watching it.

Photographers captured the watching crowds as the eclipse unfolded above Saudi Arabia, India, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and elsewhere. The images, like eclipses themselves, are an occasional reminder that all of us look out from the same general vantage point, even if our particular views vary. For a few moments as objects in space line up just right, we are united in our desire to look up and see past the limits of our little planet—while wearing funny glasses, of course. (Please, protect your eyes.)

First, because we know you want to see it, here’s the eclipse itself over Indonesia.

The annular solar eclipse appears as a small blazing ring in the sky above Indonesia
Ok, the eclipse is pretty cool.
Image: AP Photo/Rifka Majjid

And now, here’s what it looked like if you were just in it for the people watching, which is also a pretty fantastic sight as everyone—different ages, religions, and more—shared in the same curiosity, albeit at different times. Depending on location, some saw the eclipse on Dec. 25,  and some on Dec. 26.

Saudi Arabia

Men and women accessorized their headwear with protective glasses.

Saudi women holding protective glasses over black burkas that cover them completely watch the eclipse
Image: Reuters/Hamad I Mohammed
A Saudi man in red-and-white check head wrap watches the eclipse
Image: Reuters/Hamad I Mohammed


A class of students, a roadside vendor carrying on with work, and a Hindu priest—opting for exposed x-ray film to shield his eyes—all watched the eclipse.

Students and teachers on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, India, watch the eclipse.
Image: Sam Panthaky/AFP via Getty Images
A roadside vender holding a basket on her head watches the eclipse in Hyderabad
Image: AP Photo/Mahesh Kumar A.
A Hindu priest watches a partial solar eclipse through exposed x-ray film outside a temple in Agartala, India
Image: Reuters/Jayanta Dey


Whether they had the authorized glasses or not, people found a way to watch. This man in Pakistan used welding glasses.

A man uses a pair of welder glasses to observe a solar eclipse in Peshawar, Pakistan
Image: Reuters/Fayaz Aziz


Of course if you can find one pair of glasses big enough for everyone, that works too, like it did for these kids in Bangkok.

Kids and adults under a single, giant pair of protective glasses observe a partial solar eclipse at the Science Center for Education in Bangkok, Thailand
Image: Reuters/Athit Perawongmetha


Young and old alike cast their eyes up for a glimpse.

A young girl in Malaysia stares up at the eclipse
Image: Sadiq Asyraf/AFP via Getty Images
A man stares up revealing one tooth as he watches the eclipse
Image: Sadiq Asyraf/AFP via Getty Images


However different the world’s inhabitants may be on most days, they all like a good eclipse.

Boys wearing special protective glasses lie on a wooden board as they observe the annular solar eclipse in Siak, Riau province, Indonesia
Image: Reuters/Willy Kurniawan
A girl in a hat with rabbit ears watches the eclipse
Image: Reuters/Willy Kurniawan
Muslim women watch the eclipse at at the campus of the Faculty of Astronomy of Muhammadiah University of North Sumatra
Image: AP Photo/Binsar Bakkara