Millions view solar eclipse

Crowds from West Africa to Central Asia gazed skywards on Wednesday to view a total solar eclipse that cast a shadow across a vast band of the planet.

    Total eclipses occur when the moon obscures the sun

    The track of the eclipse stretched from eastern Brazil, across the Atlantic to North Africa, then on to the Middle East, Central Asia, west China and Mongolia.

    The longest view, four minutes and seven seconds, was at Libya's Wao Namus settlement, 2000km south of Tripoli near the border with Chad.

    Crowds turned out on streets, balconies and rooftops in more countries to the east, while governments warned people not to risk damaging their eyesight by viewing the eclipse with the naked eye.

    Across the continent at Salloum, an Egyptian town on the border with Libya, thousands including Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, and his wife Suzanne joined astronomers to watch.

    Crowds gathered on the Greek island of Kastellorizo, the only spot in Europe where the total eclipse was visible.

    In Turkey's Cappadocia region, famous for its lunar landscape, people danced, sang and played music.

    Millions witnessed a partial or
    total solar eclipse

    Hundreds poured into the icy streets of the Kazakh capital Astana as a black shadow swept across the steppe.   

    Partial solar eclipses are fairly common, but total eclipses are rarer. They involve the moon totally obscuring the sun within a specific corridor more than 100km wide.

    In northern India the eclipse was only partial, but the scale of the response bigger than anywhere else.

    Varied reactions

    People's reaction to the event differed from one country to another. While some clapped and danced, others praised God.

    Ghanaian Nana Appah at Cape Coast beach, the first spot where the event was easily visible, said: "This shows the greatness of God. This shows the greatness of Nature. It is very, very beautiful

    The air cooled and an eerie half-light descended over the ancient slave fort at Cape Coast, west of Ghana's capital Accra, as the moon crept across the face of the sun.

    Tourists and journalists prepare 
    to watch the eclipse in Egypt

    Cries of "Hallelujah" and "Praise the Lord" rang out as watchers shouted and clapped in excitement, sharing protective glasses. Drivers hooted their horns.
    US tourist Evelyn Alton at Cape Coast said: "The eclipse is the coolest natural phenomenon I have ever seen in my life,"
    Birds fell silent on the Greek island of Kastellorizo, which in ancient times worshipped the sun god Apollo.
    "It's like the end of the world. Night fell on the city very suddenly. I am glad it doesn't happen very often," said Roza, a middle-aged medical professor from Kazakhstan.

    Hundreds of thousands of Hindus dipped in holy rivers and ponds to rid themselves of sin and ward off what they believe are the ill effects of the phenomenon.

    Farmer Ram Narayan said after taking a dip in Allahabad: "This gives me a great feeling of salvation and rids me of evil."

    The phenomenon

    At Cape Coast, African and US academics organised a conference to coincide with the event.
    Tanzanian Felix Chami, a professor of archaeology, said that "In the past, people were scared, they believed that the sun was god and that the eclipse meant something was wrong with the sun".

    "Maybe it meant something to ancient Egyptians but we now understand that it's just the moon passing between the earth and the sun. It's nothing terrible"

    Pavel Vinogradov,
    Russian cosmonaut

    At Kazakhstan's Baikonur cosmodrome, American and Russian astronauts waiting to be launched into space on Thursday offered reporters contrasting comments on the phenomenon.
    US astronaut Jeffrey Williams called it "an example of what has fascinated people throughout history and has inspired people for discovery and exploration, to understand why things like that happen".
    Russian cosmonaut Pavel Vinogradov seemed less impressed. "I certainly don't have either bad or good feelings about it," he said.
    "Maybe it meant something to ancient Egyptians but we now understand that it's just the moon passing between the earth and the sun. It's nothing terrible."

    SOURCE: Reuters


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