July 12, 2010

Thousands Gather To View Rare Solar Eclipse

A total solar eclipse plunged remote islands into darkness on Sunday after it began its 6,800 miles arc over the Pacific.

The effect was so stunning in Tahiti that it drew crowds away from the World Cup in Polynesia to point their eyes to the sky instead.

About 5,000 astronomers spread out across French Polynesia to look at the eclipse through special glasses.

Thousands of other stargazers gathered on Easter Island, which scientists said would be the most impressive spot to view the eclipse.

The eclipse cast its shadow over the island's ancient, strange stone statues lending a mystical air to the event.

About 4,000 tourist, scientists, photographers, filmmakers and journalist flocked to the Chilean World Heritage site of about 60 square miles.

Chilean weather forecasters were doubtful about how visible the seventh total eclipse of the century would be.

However, bright blue skies paved the way for a great view of the eclipse.

Many visitors also equipped themselves with solar eclipse glasses in order to be able to safely stare into the skies at the exact moment that the Sun, Moon and Earth aligned for a fleeting four minutes and 41 seconds.

The eclipse brought tourists to Eastern Island and Tahiti, where among the stargazers was film director James Cameron, helping to bring in a $10.8 million tourism boom to the archipelago.

In the small Patagonian town of El Calafate, just across the border from southern Chile in the snow-capped Argentine Andes, hundreds of people gathered hoping to witness the natural phenomenon.

"We are pleased and excited by the interest generated by the eclipse. The five daily flights arriving in El Calafate were full on Friday and Saturday and the climate is excellent for watching," tourism director Ana Ianni, told AFP.

Image Courtesy Lutfar Rahman Nirjhar (Wikipedia)