Sunday's Solar Eclipse and the Empire State Building Made a Beautiful Pairing

The "hybrid" eclipse of the sun on November 3 was so rare it won't happen again until 2172.

Image Chris Cook
Chris Cook

Alone, the New York City skyline afire with the golden glow of dawn is a spectacular sight. But throw in a "hybrid" solar eclipse so rare it won't happen again until 2172, and you got yourself a photograph so awesome it might make you gape at your monitor like a deer in the headlights of a monster truck.

Chris Cook captured the singular image at 6:38 a.m. on Sunday morning while the moon photo-bombed the sun for three hours (to count the eclipse's 8,500-mile path over the planet). It was no accident that brought the self-described "over-the-hill" photographer from Harwich, Massachusetts, to the big city. Cook had been planning for months on how to best capture the once-in-a-lifetime event, first thinking he'd shoot it behind the new World Trade Center before logistical issues forced him to select another famous landmark, the Empire State Building.

"I photographed about 5 minutes worth of the eclipse, but it lasted longer than that," emails Cook. "The sun went behind a cloud deck and never came back out."

The photographer was using a Canon 40D with no special filters, although he had to do some creative handiwork to line up the scene. "I composed the shot using the LCD screen on my DSLR," he says. "The sun was too bright to look at even at that low altitude."

So what made this eclipse an astronomical oddballl? Here's the explanation from NASA:

The last eclipse of 2013 was an unusual one. Known as a hybrid eclipse, the Moon blocked just part of the Sun—an annular eclipse—at sunrise along the east coast of the Americas, and then moved into total eclipse along a long, narrow path across the Atlantic Ocean and central Africa. For a little more than three hours, the shadow of the Moon traced a path about 13,600 kilometers (8,500 miles) long but no more than 58 kilometers (36 miles) wide....

The 2013 event was even more unusual because the eclipse shifted from partial (annular) to total and then ended. Hybrid eclipses typically start as annular, become total, and then finish as annular. The last hybrid eclipse occurred on November 20, 1854, and the next one will not occur until October 17, 2172, according to Sky & Telescope magazine.

Cook wasn't the only shutterbug out on Sunday morning. Check out this gallery at Spaceweather for more fantastic shots, and here's an ominous view of the "lunar umbra" looming over western Africa. The folks at NOAA stitched it together using several satellite images. "Three orbits of the Suomi NPP satellite are shown here," they write, "each around 97 minutes apart":

Top image used with permission of Chris Cook /

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