Gasps, Nervousness Greet Total Solar Eclipse

Thousands of people gathered across Arctic regions, Siberia and China on Friday to see a total eclipse of the sun, despite Chinese warnings that it could augur bad luck.

Graphic showing the path of the solar eclipse. Thousands of people gathered across Arctic regions, Siberia and China to see a total eclipse of the sun, despite Chinese warnings that it could augur bad luck.(AFP Graphic)

Tourists and local residents lined the banks of the River Ob in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk, screaming with delight as the Moon fully obscured the Sun and the sky went dark, Russian television stations reported.

"It was scary, wild. Everything went dark and the wind blew," one Russian told Vesti 24 television channel after watching the eclipse through his telescope. "You looked through the telescope and everything was shaking."

Novosibirsk was the largest major city on the path of the eclipse, which could also be seen in northern Canada, Greenland, Norway, Mongolia and China over the course of two hours.

"Siberia's capital for the first time became a tourist Mecca," NTV television channel commented.

About 200 people gathered in Norway's far northern Svalbard archipelago in the main settlement of Longyearbyen. One estimated the temperature had dropped about 10 degrees Celsius during the eclipse.

"It was a special experience. The colours of the houses completely changed. The light went more white than usual," local guide Sigmund Andersen told NTB news agency.

"When such rare things happen one gets the impression something supernatural has taken place."

In China around 10,000 people gathered for the eclipse in the small town of Yiwu, 500 kilometres (310 miles) east of Urumqi, the official Xinhua news agency said.

Foreign tourists had also come to see the eclipse, Xinhua said, with at least 500 foreign travellers in Yiwu and Jiayuguan in neighbouring Gansu province.

In Novosibirsk, some 10,000 tourists, including "eclipse chasers" from abroad, had booked hotel rooms months in advance, despite prices raised to astronomical levels, local media reported.

And more than 1,000 visitors went to the remote north Siberian town of Nadym, the place where the eclipse lasted the longest, located just below the Arctic Circle, Interfax news agency reported.

In Moscow groups of workers gathered on pavements to watch the partial eclipse just visible in the capital, obscured by clouds hanging over the city.

A total solar eclipse is caused when the Moon blots out the sun by passing directly between it and the Earth and has traditionally been associated with misfortune.

At any one point the full eclipse lasts about two minutes.

Astrologers and feng shui experts in China said earlier the eclipse might spook the superstitious a week ahead of the Beijing Olympics. But they added that Chinese authorities had nothing to fear.

Meanwhile Russia's Strategic Rocket Force, responsible for the country's nuclear arsenal, offered reassurance that the eclipse could not disrupt their systems and the navy even announced it had test fired a missile on Friday from the Barents Sea, hitting a target in far eastern Kamchatka.

"Neither solar or lunar eclipses, nor periodic geomagnetic radiation causing sun spots affect the working of the control systems of strategic missiles," Alexander Vovk, a spokesman for the strategic missile force told Interfax.

Total eclipses occur on average once every 18 months. However Vesti 24 said another was not expected in Novosibirsk until 2372.

Source: AFP

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