People gazed at the sky in wonder and cheered while others knelt in prayer as a total eclipse of the sun unfolded over Indonesia on Wednesday, briefly plunging cities into darkness. The rare astronomical phenomenon was witnessed along a narrow path that stretched across 12 Indonesian provinces encompassing three time zones and about 40 million people. A partial eclipse was visible in other parts of the Indonesian archipelago, a swath of Asia, and in northern Australia. The last time a total eclipse occurred over Indonesia was in 1988. Most eclipses are partial, but when the moon is close enough to the Earth, the sun is completely eclipsed by the moon's shadow and only a spectacular ring of rays known as the corona is visible.
The entire eclipse, which began with the first patch of darkness appearing on the edge of the sun, lasted about three hours. For the viewer, the length of time the sun was totally eclipsed depended on his or her location along the path. On land the durations were mostly between 1 and 3 minutes. The last total solar eclipse was in March 2015 and was best viewed on Norway's Svalbard islands near the North Pole. The next total eclipse will occur in August 2017 and be visible over a slice of North America. Check out some eclipse-related superstitions at Live Science, including how people of yore blamed the sun's disappearance on hungry demons. (Americans, meanwhile, get a nice view of Jupiter this week.)