Image: Partial solar eclipse
Philippe Huguen  /  AFP - Getty Images
A picture taken from Locon in northern France on Tuesday shows the world's first partial solar eclipse of 2011.
By Managing editor
updated 1/4/2011 3:39:53 PM ET 2011-01-04T20:39:53

The morning skies over Europe, the Mideast and elsewhere dimmed in an unnatural twilight early Tuesday when the moon blocked part of the sun in the first partial solar eclipse of the year.

In Rome, cloudy skies made the solar eclipse a touch eerie as the moon appeared to take a bite out of the sun during the three-hour eclipse. [Photo of the Jan. 4 solar eclipse]

"It was a memorable experience, and I feel lucky to [have seen] it," said astronomer Gianluca Masi of Italy, who observed the event as part of the Virtual Telescope Project.

Masi watched the partial solar eclipse from Rome, where the sun was just under two-thirds — about 61 percent — obscured by the moon. In Sweden, where the eclipse was at its maximum, the moon blocked out about 80 percent of the sun's disk.

Skywatcher Dennis Put of Maasvlakte in the Netherlands snapped stunning photos of the solar eclipse at sunrise, despite a disheartening weather forecast. "The expectations on viewing the eclipse the day before were not very high due to a great chance on complete cloud overcast, but it turned out well!" Put said in a description of the event. [Put's photo of the sunrise solar eclipse]

Photoblog: More images from the solar eclipse

Put's photos show the solar eclipse already under way as the sun was rising, giving the dawn what he described as a "double sunrise" look. At one point, an airplane passed across the face of the sun, offering a double eclipse of sorts. [Put's photo of an airplane's silhouette and solar eclipse]

There were still some clouds that in the sky over the Netherlands, but Put said they didn't intrude too much. In all, Put took 675 photos of the partial solar eclipse. "A successful eclipse!" he exclaimed.

Likewise, Masi said the eclipse still dazzled, despite a cloudy sky above Rome.

"The clouds added some special flavor the images," Masi told Space.com in an e-mail. Masi said the sun was low on Rome's southeastern horizon during the eclipse.

Tuesday's partial solar eclipse began over Algeria. According to Sky & Telescope magazine, millions of skywatchers across Europe and parts of Africa, the Middle East and Asia had a chance to observe the eclipse, weather permitting.  "Europeans won't get another opportunity to see the sun covered to this extent until March 20, 2015," Sky & Telescope reported before the event.

  1. Space news from NBCNews.com
    1. KARE
      Teen's space mission fueled by social media

      Science editor Alan Boyle's blog: "Astronaut Abby" is at the controls of a social-media machine that is launching the 15-year-old from Minnesota to Kazakhstan this month for the liftoff of the International Space Station's next crew.

    2. Buzz Aldrin's vision for journey to Mars
    3. Giant black hole may be cooking up meals
    4. Watch a 'ring of fire' solar eclipse online

Solar eclipses occur when the moon passes between the sun and the Earth and appears to line up with the sun when observed from the ground.

When the sun and moon line up perfectly, a total solar eclipse occurs and completely covers the sun. Sometimes, however, the moon only covers a portion of the sun, creating a partial solar eclipse like the one seen on Tuesday.

"I was impressed to see many casual observers trying to look at the sun," Masi said. "People were quite informed, I must say: Eclipses are among the things happening up there they like more."

Tuesday's partial solar eclipse occurred just after the peak of the Quadrantid meteor shower.

The eclipse was the first of four partial solar eclipses set for 2011.  The next partial solar eclipse will occur on June 1, according to NASA's eclipse tracking website.

There will not be a total solar eclipse this year, as there was in 2010. Earth's next brush with totality is due in November 2012, with the total phase of the solar eclipse visible from northern Australia and the South Pacific.

You can follow SPACE.com Managing Editor Tariq Malik on Twitter@tariqjmalik.

© 2013 Space.com. All rights reserved. More from Space.com.

Photos: Best eclipse images

loading photos...
  1. Fun in the '50s

    Two women share a safety filter to watch a solar eclipse on June 30, 1954, from London's Fleet Street. (Evening Standard / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Eyes on the sky

    Members of the British Astronomers Association set up their telescopes and cameras in preparation for the August 1999 total solar eclipse. Observers should never look directly at a partial solar eclipse through telescopes or binoculars without protective measures. (Ian Waldie / REUTERS) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Totality in the '20s

    Londoners peer at a solar eclipse through smoked glass on June 29, 1927. Today, experts say the best way to see a partial solar eclipse is by using special filters or an indirect viewing system such as a pinhole camera. The total phase of the eclipse can be seen safely by the naked eye, but if even a bit of the sun's disk is showing, gazing at the eclipse too long could damage the eyes. (H. F. Davis / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Ga-ga over glasses

    Children attending the Helston School Eclipse Science Camp in England try out their protective glasses on the day before the total solar eclipse of Aug. 11, 1999. The school organized a project to send science activity packs and safety information to other schools throughout Britain. (Russell Boyce / REUTERS) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Shadow watching

    Chinese viewers watch the sun being blocked by the moon in Gaotai, Gansu province, during a solar eclipse on Aug. 1, 2008. (Aly Song / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Ring of fire

    A series of photographs shows the moon passing between the sun and Earth during the annular solar eclipse of Jan. 26, 2009, as seen from Bandar Lampung in Indonesia. The photographs were taken with a solar filter on the lens. (Beawiharta / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Sun-watching sunbathers

    A couple looks at October 2005's annular eclipse with special glasses on a beach in Gandia in eastern Spain. (Fernando Bustamante / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Cloud cover

    The sun is seen during a partial solar eclipse in Chennai (Madras), India, on Oct. 3, 2005. (M. Lakshman / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Holy sight

    A multiple-exposure photo captures the moon's movement across the disk of the sun on Aug. 11, 1999, as seen from the famous Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey. This was the last total solar eclipse of the 20th century. (Ali Kabas / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Solar streams

    The sun's corona is a tenuous outer atmosphere composed of streams of energetic charged particles, but it is seen easily from Earth only during a total solar eclipse. This 1991 image of totality from atop Mauna Kea, Hawaii, provides a fleeting glimpse of the corona's intricate structures and streams. (High Altitude Observatory, Ncar) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Eclipses everywhere

    An employee at a department store in Hamburg, Germany, watches an array of televisions during broadcast coverage of the total solar eclipse of August 1999. (Michael Probst / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Boxed in

    Wendy Shifrin of South Lee, Mass., uses a box fitted with welders' glass to view a partial solar eclipse from New York's Central Park on Dec. 25, 2000. People in the Northeast saw the moon blot out as much as 60 percent of the sun around midday. The next partial Christmas eclipse, according to astronomers, will be in 2307. (Tina Fineberg / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Red sky at morning

    The new moon covers up part of the sun during an eclipse seen from a fishing spot on the Rio de la Plata in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on June 21, 2001. (Miguel Mendez / AFP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. A bitten sun in Bulgaria

    Bulgarian children look at a partial solar eclipse through a telescope in the Black Sea port of Varna on Oct. 3, 2005. (Str / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Lord of the ring

    A sequence of three pictures, taken from the Portuguese city of Arguzelo, shows the progress of the annular eclipse on Oct. 3, 2005. In an annular eclipse, a thin ring of the sun's disk remains visible around the dark disk of the moon. (Nicolas Asfouri / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Skywatching shepherd

    Portuguese villager Jose Preto, 78, watches the progress of the October 2005 annular solar eclipse through radiation-blocking glasses while tending a flock of sheep at Rio de Onor. (Paulo Duarte / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Sliver of sun

    A man looks through a filter at an annular solar eclipse from La Linea in southern Spain on Oct. 3, 2005. In an annular eclipse, the moon moves between the sun and Earth but does not completely cover the solar disk, due to the orbital mechanics involved. (Jose Luis Roca / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. A taste of the sun

    A partial solar eclipse is projected onto at a girl's tongue as she looks into the sky over the Jordanian capital Amman on Oct. 3, 2005. (Ali Jarekji / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Do-it-yourself astronomy

    A man looks at the annular eclipse of October 2005 through a homemade cardboard tube with a filter taped over it, outside a planetarium in Pamplona, Spain. (Alvaro Barrientos / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Diamond ring

    An annular solar eclipse produces a "diamond ring" effect on May 30, 1984, as seen from Picayune, Miss. (Roger Ressmeyer / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Flower power

    In Amman, Jordan, the sun is reflected on a flower as the moon partially blocks it, forming a crescent during the solar eclipse of March 29, 2006. (Ali Jarekji / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Desert spectacle

    Libyan youths watch the total solar eclipse in the desert tourist camp in Galo on March 29, 2006, where thousands of astronomers and thrill-seekers gathered to view the sight. (Khaled Desouki / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Protecting the flock

    A young Lebanese shepherd carries a goat as he watches a partial solar eclipse in the village of Bqosta, near the southern port city of Sidon, Lebanon, on March 29. Both the shepherd and the goat are wearing protective eyewear. (Mohammed Zaatari / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. View from space

    Astronauts aboard the international space station snapped this picture from 230 miles above Earth as the shadow of the moon fell on the planet during a total solar eclipse on March 29, 2006. Visible near the shadow are portions of Cyprus in the Mediterranean Sea and the coast of Turkey. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  1. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  2. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  3. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  4. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  1. Watching Safely
    Evening Standard / Getty Images
    Above: Slideshow (24) Greatest eclipse hits
  2. Image:
    Y. Beletsky / ESO
    Slideshow (12) Month in Space: January 2014

Interactive: What causes a solar eclipse?

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments