South Africans view partial solar eclipse

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26-1-2009
By  Nthambeleni Gabara

Cape Town - South Africans on Monday morning were able to view a partial solar eclipse of the sun.

From 7am the moon began casting its shadow over the sun and earth and it ended its long journey at around 9.30am.

Speaking to BuaNews from one of the public viewing sites in Cape Town, astronomer, Dr Enrico Olivier, of the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) explained what happened during the eclipse

"It was slightly dark and the air became cool, while the sun looked yellowish or like a crescent moon." He further described the partial solar eclipse, which was visible all across Southern Africa but most prominent in Cape Town, as one of the most special astronomical events to occur.

"A number of people spend [their whole] lives without ever witnessing an eclipse. This was expected to be the best solar eclipse visible from South Africa for several years," he said.

Cape Town experienced 65 percent coverage of the sun, Durban had a 46 percent coverage, while Johannesburg had only a 35 percent coverage.

A partial solar eclipse occurs when the moon is directly between earth and the sun but, because the moon is at one of the further points from earth on its orbit, it is too small to completely cover the sun.

The most recent total eclipse occurred on 4 December 2002 in the border town of Musina in Limpopo, but only for 32 seconds.

Astronomers said the next partial solar eclipse will be visible in Cape Town on 25 November 2011.

According to astronomers, the greatest eclipse that will last six minutes 39 seconds and the longest total solar eclipse between 1991 and 2132 will be on 22 July later this year.

Dr Olivier added that events such as this should be used as a vehicle to lure more young people into science and astronomy.

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