By KWASI KPODO, Associated Press Writer
Schoolchildren clapped and cheered as the first total eclipse in years
plunged Ghana into daytime darkness Wednesday, a solar show sweeping
northeast from Brazil to Mongolia.
During the rare heavenly alignment, all that could be seen of the sun were
the rays of its corona -- the usually invisible extended atmosphere that
glowed a dull yellow for about three minutes, barely illuminating the west
Automatic street lights flickered on, authorities sounded whistles and
schoolchildren burst into applause across Ghana's capital, Accra. Many
in the deeply religious country of Christians and Muslims said it
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
"Imagine if your hair was to stand up from static electricity, that's
kind of what the corona looks like all around the sun," Young
said. But directly looking at the sun can damage the eyes without
About 12,000 tourists from 40 countries and 20,000 Libyans trekked out
to three viewing spots in Libya -- one on the border with Egypt and
two deep in the desert, Libya's Tourism Ministry said.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, his wife and several ministers
joined 8,000 tourists and astronomers from six countries in Solloum,
Egypt. The town lay nearly dead center in the path of the total
eclipse, giving spectators nearly four minutes of darkness starting at
In Iraq, Sunni and Shiite Muslims were summoned to their mosques
during the partial eclipse for a special prayer reserved for times of
fear and natural disasters. Dozens shut down shops and left offices to
gather in mosques, particularly in the southern city of Basra, home to
many devout Muslims.
Even in Baghdad, which has been wracked by violence in recent days,
people congregated to look at the sky. Inside mosques, they shouted
"God is great."
A total eclipse could be seen in Nalchik, Russia, about 870 miles
south of Moscow. People on the streets screamed, some with fear and
some in wonder, and they were joined by the cawing of crows when the
city fell into darkness and temperatures plunged suddenly.
In Turkey's Mediterranean town of Side, hundreds streamed down a main
street, some carrying tripods, to an ancient Greek temple dedicated to
It was "spiritual and emotional," said Brian Faltinson of Victoria,
Canada, who was in Turkey to witness his second eclipse. "It just
about made me cry."
Joaquim Boix traveled to Turkey from Barcelona, Spain, saying he
became addicted to eclipses after seeing one in Germany.
"It's fantastic," Boix said. "It's the color, the metallic blue-green
color on the skin of the people. The sky with the stars in the
background. Usually you watch the stars in a black background. ... The
background is blue. It's a special feeling."
Astronomers and scientists from NASA and the San Francisco-based
Exploratorium science museum gathered in Side. "It's one of those
experiences that makes you feel like you're part of the larger
universe," said NASA astronomer Janet Luhman.
NASA said the best spot to view the eclipse was along the Turkish
Mediterranean coast, and Turks welcomed the many tourists after a
recent bird flu outbreak and protests over the caricatures of Islam's
"It should happen more often," said Hamza Bikmaz who was selling
eclipse T-shirts outside the theater.
West African governments scrambled to educate people about the dangers
of looking at the eclipse without proper eye protection.
Authorities imported hundreds of thousands of pairs of special glasses
that sold rapidly in Togo's capital, Lome. But villagers in the
interior did not have access to the eyewear, and officials urged them
to stay home.
Superstition accompanied the path of the eclipse, as it has for
One Indian newspaper advised pregnant women not to go outside during
the eclipse to avoid having a baby who is blind or having a cleft
lip. Food cooked before the eclipse should be thrown out because it
will be impure, and those holding a knife or ax during the event will
cut themselves, the Hindustan Times added.
In Turkey's Tokat province, wary residents set up tents outside
despite assurances from scientists that there was no evidence of a
link between earthquakes and eclipses.
In August 1999, an earthquake in northwestern Turkey killed some
17,000 people just six days after a solar eclipse.
Total eclipses are rare because they require the tilted orbits of the
sun, moon and Earth to line up exactly so that the moon obscures the
sun completely. The next total eclipse will occur in 2008.
Copyright 2006 The Associated Press.
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