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annular solar eclipse
Photograph: Shutterstock

There’s a ‘ring of fire’ solar eclipse this weekend

The unusual eclipse falls on the same weekend as the June solstice

Ellie Walker-Arnott

Your IRL summer plans might be lacking right now, but there are big things going on in the skies above us this weekend. Not only is it the June solstice, it’s also when a solar eclipse will take place. 

Saturday June 20 marks the summer solstice, or the longest day – when the Earth's north pole reaches its maximum tilt towards the sun – in the northern hemisphere, and the winter solstice, or the shortest day, in the southern hemisphere.

Then, on Sunday June 21, just a few hours after the solstice, the planet will be plunged into shade, thanks to an annular solar eclipse. 

Annular solar eclipse
Photograph: Keith Tarrier/

A solar eclipse happens when the sun, the moon and the Earth are aligned. An eclipse is when the moon moves in front of the sun, temporarily blocking the sun’s light and leaving part of the Earth in shadow. An annular eclipse, which is what will happen this weekend, is when the moon doesn’t cover the sun entirely, leaving a ring of light around the moon. These eclipses are known as ‘ring of fire’ eclipses.

Annular solar eclipse
Photograph: Shutterstock

Unfortunately, this weekend’s annular solar eclipse isn’t visible from everywhere in the world. The best views will be across Africa and parts the Middle East and Asia, but check out this handy map from Nasa to find out if you’ll be able to see it and at what time. 

If you’re not in the path of the eclipse, you can also watch a live stream of the eclipse online here.

It's really rare to have a solar eclipse happen at the same time as a solstice. The last time it happened was in 2001, when the solstice coincided by a total solar eclipse, and the next time it happens will be in 2039 – but usually they happen much less frequently than that. If you want to know the science behind it, read this. Or head to Twitter where some people think the occurrence means the end of the world is nigh. Whatever your stance, it’s certainly a dramatic way to kick off a new season. 

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