Sun chasers drawn to Siberia for solar eclipse

The sky will darken and thousands of sun chasers in ultraviolet goggles will travel to Siberia to see the 140-second phenomenon Friday when a total solar eclipse will rise in the Arctic and cross over central Russia setting in Mongolia and Western China, the dpa reported.

Novosibirsk, Russia's third largest city which lies in the path of the eclipse, is readying itself for an influx of over 15,000 hobby astronomers and tourists.

Hotels have been full booked since 2003, and city authorities are setting up tents to accommodate the extra guests, local news agencies reported.

The solar blackout is set to last 2 minutes and 20 seconds over Siberia's hub city, 2,000 kilometers east of Moscow where a partial eclipse will be seen at 1408 local time (1108 GMT).

"Our city will be the world capital for this rare phenomenon," Novosibirsk mayor Vladimir Gorodetsky told news agency Itar-Tass, adding 150 telescopes had been readied.

"Tsars of the Sun" and "Sun Chaser" tour packages are being marketed at 1,000 to 3,000 dollars to three Russian cities set to experience the total solar blackout.

The peak of the eclipse will last 2 minutes and 27 seconds over the Arctic city of Nadym at 1021 GMT.

Russian airlines carriers say they have also seen higher sales for flights to Altai, a famed mountainous preserve in Southern Russia and home to shamanistic tribes as well as a community of Russian Orthodox Old Believers.

Friday's eclipse is likely to be joined with apprehension and superstition.

Experts estimated that the midday darkness of an eclipse falls every 300 years across central Russia, though eclipses are surprisingly common, occurring about every year and half.

At totality, when the moon is fully in line with the sun, it appears as a glowing halo. The heat drops in a matter of minutes and it is possible to see stars in broad daylight.

But doctors warn that the sun's rays are just as injurious to the eye and special ultraviolet glasses must be worn.

Authorities in Novosibirsk said they will be handing out paper specs akin to the unmatched lenses for 3-D pop outs to eclipse pilgrims.

The next total solar eclipse won't be seen in Russia until 2030.

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