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Wednesday, July 8, 1998 Published at 17:23 GMT 18:23 UK


Millions to descend on Cornwall for solar eclipse

A total eclipse never lasts more than a few minutes

Temporary campsites on hundreds of acres of farmland will be needed to cope with the millions coverging on Cornwall to see a total solar eclipse.

That is the finding of a report just published in the southern UK county where plans are being drawn up to handle the interest in next year's total eclipse.

The eclipse itself will take place on the morning of 11 August, 1999, when the moon will cover the sun for about two minutes six seconds, visible between Penzance and Falmouth.

During a solar eclipse the moon passes between the Earth and the sun, and casts a shadow on the Earth's surface. Those people in the shadow are the ones who see all or part of the sun disappear.

[ image: An eclipse cannot be seen with the naked eye]
An eclipse cannot be seen with the naked eye
Because the shadow of the moon moves across the Earth so quickly (roughly 1,054 mph), a total eclipse never lasts longer than a few minutes.

The county's eclipse coordinator, Gage Williams, has already produced a report seeking to make contingency plans and has predicted that between two and four million people could visit the county.

Mr Williams, a former army officer, said that thousands of extra beds could be provided by Cornish families and villages and local schools may also establish temporary campsites.

The Cornwall-based Walker Group presented a report to Carrick District Council on Wednesday seeking at least 10,000 acres of farmland for them to provide accommodation next Summer.

They say that each site could be of at least 200 acres and cater for 20,000 people.

Another Cornwall firm, Total Eclipse of the Sun (Cornwall) Ltd, is planning to house about 80,000 people on 18 sites around the county.

When the last total mainland eclipse was visible in the north of England in June 1927, three million people visited that area - sparking the biggest recorded movement of people by train.

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