Eclipse plunges central and East Africa into semi-darkness

2010-01-15 11:06

AN ANNULAR eclipse has raced across central and eastern Africa

today, briefly reducing the Sun to a blazing ring surrounding a sombre


The solar cover-up, visible in a roughly 300km band running

12?900km, will at one point set a duration record that will remain unbeaten for

more than a thousand years.

In the Ugandan capital Kampala motorcycle taxi drivers stopped on

street corners to share dark glasses and gaze up at the sky.

Some residents were afraid of the intensity of the light.

“Can’t it burn someone? You can’t even look direct because I’m

fearing for my eyes. I’m fearing it can burn me,” said Angela Namukwaya, a

shopkeeper in a Kampala suburb.

In Kenya, John Saitega, a 34-year-old Maasai and father of six in

Olte Tefi 50km south of Nairobi, said he and his friends learned of the eclipse

and the risk that gazing at it carries for their eyesight from local radio and


They were all sharing one pair of dark goggles and taking turns to

look at the sun, he said.

“It’s getting interesting. Birds are singing. It’s actually getting

cold here. It looks like night now,” he said.

An annular eclipse occurs when the moon passes directly in front of

the sun but does not completely obscure it, thus leaving a ring – an annulus –

of sunlight flaring around the lunar disc.

The moon’s shadow first struck the southwestern tip of Chad and

western Central African Republic at 0514 GMT (7.14am SA time) and then flitted

across Uganda, Kenya, and Somalia.

The lunar umbra, or shadow, was set to cross the Indian Ocean,

Bangladesh, India, Myanmar and China before expiring in the Shandong peninsula

at 0859 GMT.

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