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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia will wake up to a “Ring of Fire” in the sky on Thursday — a spectacular solar eclipse believed to be the first of its kind in the Kingdom.
The final solar eclipse of 2019 will farewell the year in dramatic fashion in places such as India, Singapore, the Philippines and areas of Australia as well as the Gulf region.
Eyewitnesses to the annular eclipse will see the moon move in front of the sun, blocking out the center but leaving the edges visible — creating a “Ring of Fire” in the sky.
Abdullah Al-Misnad, a climate professor at Qassim University’s geography department, said that the Dec. 26 eclipse will be the first of two in Saudi Arabia, with a second eclipse due on June 21, 2020.
The solar eclipse is expected to last 2 minutes 55 seconds. It will not be visible to all Gulf countries, but is limited to a 160 km swathe across southern areas of the Arabian Peninsula.
Hofuf in the Kingdom’s Eastern Province — the only Gulf city over which the eclipse shadow will pass — will have unrivalled views of the “Ring of Fire” eclipse, Al-Misnad said.
However, he cautioned people against looking or staring at the sun during the eclipse.
Dr. Salwa Al-Hazaa, a consultant ophthalmic surgeon at King Faisal Specialist Hospital, also warned against looking at the sun during any type of eclipse because of the high risk of eye damage.
Gazing at the sun during a full or partial solar eclipse is harmful and could cause partial blindness, she said.
An annular solar eclipse occurs when a new moon is furthest from the Earth on its elliptical orbit, and on Christmas Day it will appear about one percent smaller in the sky. It cannot fully eclipse the sun, and instead observers see a ‘ring of fire’ or ‘ring of light’ around the moon. It is essentially a pretty partial solar eclipse, and at all times observers need to wear protective solar eclipse glasses.
She also warned against using so-called “protective” glasses, which she said were “useless,” and failed to protect the eyes against ultraviolet and infrared light produced during an eclipse.
Al-Hazaa said that children and those aged under 20 years are most vulnerable to eye damage from harmful rays from the sun.
The damaging effects of staring at the sun might not be clear immediately, but will appear after a short period of time in form of a decline in vision and difficulty in identifying colors.
“The real danger lies in the infrared rays, which cannot be seen by our eyes. When these rays penetrate the eyes, they cause harmful effects to the retina,” she said.
Minister of Education Hamad Al-Asheikh has told schools in the Kingdom to postpone exams until 9 a.m. on Thursday as a precautionary measure to protect students and school staff during the solar eclipse.
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