NYC stargazers eagerly await the 2021 ‘Ring of Fire’ solar eclipse

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On Thursday, the Big Apple will get a glimpse of how small it really is.

Beginning at 5:24 a.m., as daylight breaks over the five boroughs, New Yorkers will witness a crescent-shaped sun peeking over the horizon. The moon will cover about 70 percent of the sun at that time, peaking at 72.5 percent coverage eight minutes later. The so-called “ring of fire” eclipse will remain visible until 6:30 a.m.

“It’s a moment that you can be participating in something far bigger than yourself,” said Jackie Faherty, Ph.D., 42, an astrophysicist at the American Museum of Natural History on the Upper West Side, who plans on viewing the special sun — which has also been dubbed “Devil’s Horns” because of the red silhouette it creates as it rises — from her Harlem rooftop.

The universe, she continued, is “putting on a show and it’s something we should notice.” (When viewing, be sure to wear solar glasses or use a telescope or binoculars with filtered lenses to prevent eye damage.)

Local stargazer buffs are eagerly awaiting the event, especially as the city continues emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Forty-seven-year-old Brian Berg, president of the Amateur Astronomers Association of New York, advises folks to get together and “share the awe with one another.” On Thursday, his group will host a free public sun-gazing gathering at Field 40 on Randalls Island. Telescopes, which will be disinfected between each use, will be on hand for a closer look. 

“It really makes you realize we’re all part of this one universe, which I think is one of the great things about it — that we’re just a speck of a planet floating around, and we get to observe what happens around it,” added Berg.

Some are taking to great heights to get a good view. On Thursday, the Amateur Observers’ Society of New York will have a private, 92nd-floor event at the Summit observatory at One Vanderbilt, a new commercial tower in Midtown. The not-yet-open to the public perch begins at 1,050 feet above the ground, making for a unique vantage point.

“This will give us an opportunity to see long distance,” said board member Jason Cousins, 55. “It’s got a good sightline down the East River and down the Long Island Sound.”

Other sky-scraping events include a ticketed viewing from the Empire State Building’s 86th floor observation deck — where guests will arrive at 5 a.m., then fuel up with complimentary Starbucks, to take it all in ($114.81 per person, tickets at

Despite the anticipation around Thursday’s celestial sights, New York City isn’t even in the eclipse’s direct path. A ring of fire eclipse gets its name from how much the moon covers the sun as it passes by. The ideal viewing scenario comes when the blackened new moon, too far from Earth in its orbit, revolves past the sun and doesn’t fully block it — leaving just the sun’s fiery edge visible all around the dark sphere. This full ring effect will be visible from Lake Superior in Canada, then peak above northern Greenland, before gliding over the North Pole to end in northeast Siberia.

Still, New Yorkers are in for a treat, especially if they can get an east-northeast view from an unobstructed peak from a rooftop, or make an escape to a waterfront with a clear horizon. And, it will certainly be better than gazing at the glowing gadget that consumes too much of our time.

“It’s all about getting people to look up and stop looking at their cellphones,” said Cousins.

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