Thousands drawn to Siberia for total solar eclipse

Other News Materials 1 August 2008 15:38 (UTC +04:00)

Thousands of eclipse chasers were in Siberia on Friday to experience day turn to night when the moon's shadow covered over the sun for a 140-second chill, reported dpa.

The total solar eclipse, sliding over the globe at a speed of 2,000 kilometres per hour, rose in the Arctic, crossing over central Russia to set in Mongolia and Western China on Friday.

The polar city of Nadym was the first to experience the eclipse, at its peak length of 2 minutes and 27 seconds of darkness.

But most eclipse pilgrims gathered in Russia's third largest city of Novosibirsk, which lies directly in the arc of the eclipse. Over 15,000 hobby astronauts flooded the city this week, news agency RIA-Novosti reported.

The city's 87 hotels have been fully booked since 2003, and authorities set up tent camps to provide for the influx of people, the agency said.

Weather forecasts were predicting overcast skies Friday, but authorities in Novosibirsk were nonetheless distributing special paper specs to prevent damage caused by direct viewing of the sun.

Experts estimated that the eclipse is a once-in-300-years event in Novosibirsk, where the solar blackout is set to last 2 minutes and 20 seconds, but the phenomenon occurs worldwide about every 18 months.

At totality, the sun will appear as a glowing halo, the temperature will drop in a matter of minutes and it is possible to see stars in broad daylight.

A partial eclipse will be visible in Moscow, about 2,000 kilometres east of Siberia's hub city, where a maximum of 58 per cent of the sun will be obscured at 1408 local time (1108 GMT).

Another solar eclipse won't be seen in Russia until 2030, while the next total eclipse will be over North America in 2017.