Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Early partial solar eclipse for 2011

People standing across a great swathe of the Earth's surface saw the Moon take a big bite out of the Sun.

For north Africa and much of Europe, the event began at sunrise, whereas in central Russia and north-west China, the spectacle occurred at sunset.

North-east Sweden had the best sight. From 0850 GMT, near the city of Skelleftea, the Moon covered almost 90% of the Sun's diameter.

To get that view, however, Swedish skywatchers would have needed a high vantage point, as both celestial bodies were skirting the horizon at that time.

Viewing the Sun's harsh light should only be done through protective equipment As is always the case for solar eclipses, the public was warned to take great care.

Viewing the Sun's harsh light should only be done through protective equipment - proper solar glasses and solar telescopes, or through a pinhole projection system.

In many places, professional and amateur astronomy groups set up safe observing systems. In the UK, for example, there were a series of events tied into the BBC's Stargazing Live programmes.

Partial solar eclipses occur when the Sun and Moon do not quite align in the sky as viewed from Earth, and the deep shadow cast by the smaller body passing across the bigger one just misses the planet.

Nonetheless, the phenomenon resulted in a dip in light, depending on how big a chunk of the solar disc the Moon was seen to obscure.

The Moon was seen to take a big bite out of the Sun This effect varied from place to place and in time.

Northern Algeria was the first location to experience the eclipse at 0640 GMT.

In European cities like London and Paris, the eclipse was already under way as the Sun rose, and the Moon covered up almost 70% of our star by 0812 GMT in the British capital, and 65% of the solar disc by 0809 GMT in the French capital.

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