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Saturday, April 01, 2006

World marvels at total eclipse

The total eclipse of the Sun finished its journey across the globe at 1148 GMT (1248 BST), in sunset along Mongolia's northern border.

Skywatchers around the world marvelled as they caught a glimpse of the "ultimate astronomical show".

As the spectacle passed overhead, witnesses prayed, cheered and clapped.

The eclipse took just over three hours to sweep a narrow corridor across the Atlantic, through Africa, Turkey and Central Asia.

'Amazing sight'

The Moon's umbral shadow first touched down on Earth at 0836 GMT (0936 BST), at sunrise on the east coast of Brazil.

It then raced across the Atlantic Ocean before making African landfall in Ghana at 0908 GMT (1008 BST), where residents of the capital Accra filled the streets to view the event.

As the temperature dropped and the sky darkened, the crowd looked skywards and shouted and clapped as the eclipse swept above.

An eclipse watcher in the capital said it was "the most amazing sight" and "a must-see experience".

At 1011 GMT (1211 BST), the eclipse reached the desert of southern Libya where professional and amateur astronomers had gathered to witness the point of greatest eclipse; a sight which lasted a total of four minutes and seven seconds.

The Libyan government prepared for the tourist rush by erecting desert tent villages, with a total capacity for 7,000 people.

Continuing on a northeast course, the eclipse then crossed the southern Mediterranean coast at 1040 GMT (1140 BST).

British and US astronomers joined thousands of skywatchers to view the phenomenon from a Roman amphitheatre in Turkey.

"It's one of those experiences that makes you feel like you're part of the larger universe," said Nasa scientist Janet Luhman.

Other scientists viewed the eclipse from Kastellorizo Island in Greece.

"It was more fabulous even than we expected," said Jay Pasachoff, professor of astronomy at Williams College, Massachusetts, after he had observed his 42nd solar eclipse.

"All the technical equipment worked perfectly, the corona shone brightly, and sunspots on the eastern edge of the Sun provided an even more dramatic show than predicted."

The eclipse then moved across Russia through to Central Asia, where its journey finally ended at 1148 GMT (1248 BST) - sunset in the northern borders of Mongolia.

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