(CNN) -- The shadow of the moon swept across the globe from Hong Kong to the Texas Panhandle as a rare annular solar eclipse began Monday morning in Asia and traversed the Pacific.
The sun appeared as a thin ring behind the moon to people in a narrow path along the center of the track, which began in southern China. Heavy clouds obscured the view in Hong Kong, but residents of Tokyo and other cities were able to get a spectacular view for about four minutes around 7:32 a.m. Monday (6:32 p.m. ET Sunday).
Events were held at schools and museums in Japan, while many more people took in the unusual astronomical event at home or on street corners.
After whizzing across the Pacific, the shadow emerged over northern California and southern Oregon, where thousands of people attended parties to watch the event, the first to appear in the United States since 1994.
Experts warned that hopeful viewers should not peer up at the sky without special viewing equipment, since looking at the sun with the naked eye can cause blindness.
Derek Ralston, a professional photographer, said he used a welding filter to capture a direct view of eclipse in the foothills above Oroville, California. He shared the photo on CNN iReport.
Noting "the rather slim swath of the globe who could see the impact of the eclipse," Ralston said he wanted to enable "the rest of the world to see how clear it looked to those of us who were fortunate enough to see it."
The sliver of sunshine then traveled southeast across central Nevada, southern Utah and northern Arizona, and then New Mexico. It passed over Albuquerque, New Mexico, about 7:34 p.m. (9:34 p.m. ET) before petering out east of Lubbock, Texas, according to NASA.
An annular eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the Earth and sun at the farthest point of its orbit, meaning it will block less than the entire sun. That leaves a large, bright ring around it as it passes.
Patrick Wiggins, a NASA ambassador in Salt Lake City, said he always looked forward to seeing people's reactions to such events.
"You get everything from stoic, staring into the sky ... to people breaking down and crying, they're just so moved," he said.
Aaron Lin, an 8th-grade student from Moraga, California, said a tree in his family's yard had served as unexpected natural viewing device on Sunday.
The leaves of the tree, whose shadow falls on the side of the family's house, broke up the light from the eclipse into scores of tiny crescents on the wall, he said.
"I was so shocked by these shadows because it looked like a painting or computer art," said Aaron, 13.
Did you view the eclipse? Share your photos with CNN iReport and they could be featured on CNN.
The next solar eclipse will be on November 13, and is expected to be visible over northern Australia, according to NASA.
CNN's Yoko Wakatsuki, Tyson Wheatley and Melissa Gray contributed to this report.
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