A Total Eclipse Of The Sun

A boy watches the partial solar eclipse in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Wednesday, March 29, 2006.
AP Photo/Pavel Rahman
Millions of people watched the first total eclipse in years track across the southern sky Wednesday.

Thousands of Egyptians, tourists and astronomers — and the Egyptian president — watched Wednesday's total solar eclipse from a prime location, an isolated desert town on the Libyan border, where darkness fell and stars appeared in the daytime sky.

Schoolchildren in Accra cheered as the first total eclipse in years plunged Ghana into daytime darkness Wednesday, a solar show sweeping northeast from Brazil to Mongolia.

Williams College astronomy professor Jay Pasachoff witnessed the eclipse on a tiny Greek island off the coast of Turkey, and described it for CBS Radio News (audio).

As the heavens and Earth moved into rare alignment, all that could be seen of the sun were the rays of its corona — the usually invisible extended atmosphere of the sun that glowed a dull yellow for about three minutes.

The town of Salloum, Egypt, lay nearly dead center on the path of the total eclipse, giving spectators there nearly four minutes of darkness. Astronomers from six countries, including NASA scientists from the United States, came to Salloum to observe.

They were joined by some 8,000 tourists, hundreds of journalists, and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, his wife and several ministers, who arrived in a convoy of several vehicles as folklore troupes played popular Egyptian music.

The site — usually visited only by workers and truckers crossing the border — was turned into an impromptu tourist draw: a two-mile stretch of beach was set up a day earlier with umbrellas, chairs and coffee-shops, and a firework show was given Tuesday night.

Several Egyptian television stations and the Al-Jazeera news network showed live footage from Salloum as the moon covered the sun, and at around 12:38 p.m. Wednesday the sky went black and a few bright stars appeared as the popular music went higher.

In Accra, automatic street lights flickered on, authorities sounded whistles and schoolchildren burst into applause across Ghana's capital. Many in the deeply religious country of Christians and Muslims said the phenomenon bolstered their faith.

"I believe it's a wonderful work of God, despite all what the scientists say," said Solomon Pomenya, a 52-year old doctor. "This tells me that God is a true engineer."

The last such eclipse in November 2003 was best viewed from Antarctica, said Alex Young, a NASA scientist involved in solar research.