A Rare Total Solar Eclipse Wows (Parts of) Earth

Svalbard, Norway, offered perfect view, though clouds obstructed other areas
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 20, 2015 7:26 AM CDT
Updated Mar 20, 2015 7:52 AM CDT
A Rare Total Solar Eclipse Wows (Parts of) Earth
People watch as a solar eclipse begins over the Eden Project near St Austell in Cornwall, England, Friday, March 20, 2015.   (Ben Birchall)

Sky-gazers in the Arctic were treated to a perfect view of a total solar eclipse today as the moon completely blocked out the sun in a clear sky, casting a shadow over Norway's remote archipelago of Svalbard. People shouted, cheered, and applauded as Longyearbyen, the main town in Svalbard, plunged into darkness. The skies were clear, offering a full view of the sun's corona—a faint ring of rays surrounding the moon—that's only visible during a total solar eclipse. "It was just fabulous, just beautiful, and at the same time a bit odd, and it was too short," says Mary Rannestad, 60, from Minnesota. Though some enterprising eclipse-seekers got exactly what they were hoping for, others were less lucky. A blanket of clouds in the Faeroe Islands in the North Atlantic blocked thousands of people from experiencing the full effect. (One Svalbard tourist ended up on the wrong side of a polar bear.)

The Faeroes and Svalbard were the only two places on land where the eclipse was total. About 20,000 visitors had traveled to the two remote island groups to watch the spectacle. Despite the clouds in the Faeroes, tourists and residents in Torshavn alike hooted and applauded as the daylight dimmed for about two minutes and 45 seconds. A partial solar eclipse could be seen today across Europe and parts of Asia and Africa. Britain's Met Office said 95% of the sun was covered in the Hebrides, Orkneys, and Shetland islands, and about 94% further south in Glasgow and Edinburgh. In Copenhagen, the sun was 85% covered up, while 80% was hidden in southern Sweden. The last total eclipse was in November 2012 over Australia. The next one will be over Indonesia in March 2016, according to NASA. (More solar eclipse stories.)

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