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An eclipse chaser catches the 'ring of fire' event in New Mexico

SCOTT DETROW, HOST:

Earlier today, the moon passed between the sun and the Earth, creating what's called a ring of fire solar eclipse. A partial eclipse was visible in much of the U.S., except - I will grouse right now - to us here in Washington, D.C., where it was overcast and rainy. But prime viewing - what's called an annular eclipse - was reserved for people along a narrow path spanning eight states from Oregon to Texas. Journalist and science writer David Baron is a veteran eclipse chaser and the author of a book called "American Eclipse." He is usually based in Colorado. He traveled to northwest New Mexico today to view this eclipse, and he joins us now. Hey, David.

DAVID BARON: Hello, Scott.

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DETROW: So I have to make this paraphrase, or I feel like I'll be fired from my job. You just stared into a burning ring of fire. How was it?

BARON: (Laughter). It was spectacular. Now, of course, I had eye protection.

DETROW: Yes.

BARON: For an annular eclipse, you must use eye protection, or you could ruin your vision. But it was just gorgeous. The period when the sun was just a perfect ring in the sky lasted about 4.5 minutes, and it really, through my eclipse glasses, looked like a wedding band just sitting up there in the heavens. It was just spectacular.

DETROW: Oh, wow. Tell us where you were and what was the reaction of people around you?

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BARON: Well, I'm still here. I'm in - I'm near Farmington, N.M. I'm at a very remote overlook over some beautiful badlands. There are eroded cliffs striped purple and gray and beige. And one of the wonderful things was to see the colors change as the moon moved in front of the sun, and the landscape dimmed and dimmed and dimmed. The colors really got deeper. And it was like the contrast of the colors also was heightened. So that was something to watch. It got colder. I would say the temperature dropped a good 10 or 15 degrees...

DETROW: Wow.

BARON: ...When the eclipse reached its peak. And I was just here with - I didn't know if anyone would be here, but there are about 70 other folks here, couples with young kids and dogs, and I met a couple of folks who came all the way from Michigan for this. So we were just this wonderful little community to watch this rare event.

DETROW: You know, this one, you were relatively close to home, but you've traveled all over the world to view eclipses. What, for you, is the draw?

BARON: A solar eclipse is just an opportunity to stop for a moment and appreciate being alive on this planet, in this amazing solar system where - there are all these giant forces at work that, whether we're here or not, they will continue on. They've been going on for eons. And it's just - for me, it's a way to get in touch, in a very visceral sense, with existence. It sounds crazy and corny, but I find it's really good for my head. And there are a lot of eclipse chasers out there, a lot of folks who feel the way I do, that it's really sort of a reverential moment.

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DETROW: So what's the next one? Where are you going next? Where should we look next?

BARON: Well, let me say that an annular eclipse, like the one today, it was beautiful. I was happy to drive a good eight hours from home to get here, but an annular eclipse is nothing compared with the truly awe-inspiring sight of a total solar eclipse. A total solar eclipse, like the one that happened in 2017, for those who were in the path of totality, which went then from Oregon to South Carolina, they'll know what I'm talking about. So a total solar eclipse, I will travel to the other side of the world, and I do every other year. So the next total solar eclipse will cross the United States on April 8 from Texas to Maine. Everyone should be trying to figure out now where they will be on that day. It's a Monday, so be sure to take the day off. And...

DETROW: So next year - it's coming right up, relatively speaking.

BARON: Absolutely. The next solar eclipse will be a total solar eclipse. And it will be coming to the United States. And if you miss the total eclipse in 2024, next April, you're going to have to wait a good two more decades before another one comes to the United States.

DETROW: All right, well, I will be sure to be in the right place with my proper viewing next April. For today, though, we missed out here in D.C. But David Baron, author of "American Eclipse," got a beautiful view in New Mexico. Thanks for telling us about it, David.

BARON: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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