Sunrise treat for Europe as moon takes bite of sun
Published 05/01/2011 | 05:00
Wintry skies darkened over Switzerland yesterday morning, but Romanians were treated to a pinkish ethereal light and Swedes to a beautiful sunrise, as the partial solar eclipse that began over the Middle East extended across much of Europe.
The solar occurrence was at its height over Geneva, Bern and other Swiss cities in the midmorning, then the greyness at the lower altitudes began to brighten a bit.
As much as two-thirds of the sun slipped from view behind the moon.
Federal health officials warned people, especially children, to wear special eye protection rather than use homemade gear to see the eclipse. The Swiss government itself tweeted: "An astronomical show, but watch the eyes!"
For some the weather lent that protection. "It was covered," Delio Macchi of the Neuchatel observatory said of the effect in Swiss skies.
Clear skies over southern Romania offered a chance to glimpse a pale pink, otherworldly glow that spread over Bucharest, the capital.
"This morning I saw a strange light," said Andrei Carlescu, a 21-year-old architecture student who was fascinated by the way the light dipped. "At first I didn't know what was happening. There were children about nine or 10 who were wearing special glasses and looking at it."
The eclipse was first seen over Jerusalem, the sun appearing to have taken a large bite out of its upper right section.
A solar eclipse happens when the moon lines up between the sun and the Earth, casting a lunar shadow on the Earth's surface and obscuring the solar disk. During a partial solar eclipse, only part of the sun is blotted out.
Astronomers expected the greatest eclipse over Sweden, where about 85pc of the sun would be blocked.
"It's thanks to the position of the moon and so the shadow (of it) is very small," said Niclas Henricson, head of the Tycho Brahe observatory.
He said Swedes only had such an opportunity about once every four to five years; their next full solar eclipse will be in 2126.
Polish viewers were treated to live television coverage from Krakow, where the shadow of the moon could be seen gradually blacking out the sun.