Wednesday, August 11, 1999 Published at 09:37 GMT 10:37 UK
Countdown to eclipse
The Sun's corona or atmosphere becomes visible during an eclipse
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Millions of people from northern Europe to South Asia are preparing to look skyward to catch one of nature's greatest spectacles, a total eclipse of the Sun.
Thousands of people in India have already gathered at holy sites, where some mystics are predicting that the eclipse will presage war and devastation.
In Britain, Celtic pagan priests have been holding Sun dances to improve the weather for nearly a million people who have travelled to Cornwall to see the total eclipse.
Wednesday will provide the last chance for scientists to study the phenomenon this millennium, although they like everyone else have been warned not to look directly at the sun.
Day will become night.
In this eclipse, however, there will be darkness on at least some part of the planet for over three hours and the path of totality - the band on the Earth's surface thrown into complete darkness - will cross some of the most heavily populated areas.
"The last time an eclipse was visible through central Europe was 1961, so it's been quite a while."
The eclipse begins in the North Atlantic about 300 kilometres south of Nova Scotia where the Moon's shadow first touches down at 0930 GMT.
The instant of greatest eclipse occurs at 1103 GMT, when the shadow's epicentre will be over the rolling hills of south-central Romania, very near Rīmnicu-Vīlcea.
Spectators on the ground will see the Sun blacked out for a total of two minutes and 23 seconds
From there, the shadow will race on at over 2400 km/h (1500 mph) into Turkey, Iran and Pakistan and ending in the Bay of Bengal off the coast of India at 12.36 GMT.
In between, many are sure to get the full experience in cloudless skies, particularly in countries such as Turkey, Iraq and Iran.
But astronomers, whilst advising spectators to take every precaution, have urged everyone to grasp what may be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
"There is nothing in nature to rival the glory of a total eclipse," said British astronomer Patrick Moore, a veteran of eight eclipses around the world.
"No written desciption, no photograph can do it justice,"