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1954: Three continents see eclipse of sun

VIDEO : The eclipse as it happened

Millions of people have witnessed a total eclipse of the sun as the moon cast its shadow from America through Europe and on to Asia.

For people in Britain it was the first time they could see this natural phenomenon since 1927.

From Greenwich to Glasgow, thousands of skywatchers using smoked glass or overexposed film could see at least 75% of the sun obscured.

But the view from the most northerly island of Britain - the Shetland isle of Unst, and the only point of totality in Britain - was largely obscured by cloud and drizzle.

When the sun was totally eclipsed by the moon, the skies turned dark for a few seconds, the temperature dropped and birds flew back to their nests.

There will not be another total eclipse visible from Britain until August 1999.

Shadow across the world

The shadow was first spotted in Nebraska, North America, at 1208 BST today. It then passed over Labrador and across the Atlantic at a speed of about 1,800 mph (2,897 km/h).

The eclipse was seen in Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Belarus, Ukraine, Russia, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.

In India, 400,000 Hindu pilgrims bathed in holy water at Kurukhestan in the Punjab. They believe that the eclipse is caused by two gods, Rahu and Ketu, trying to swallow the Sun and Moon.

The longest duration of totality was two minutes 35 seconds.

In Sweden about 400 scientists from all over the world gathered to observe the eclipse which cast an 80-mile (128-km) shadow across the country.

It is hoped data from observing the corona - the outer atmosphere of the sun, that is highlighted by such an eclipse - will teach us more about the shape of the Earth, positions of the moon and the rays of the sun.

In Context
A solar eclipse occurs when the moon is between the Earth and sun and the moon casts a shadow on the Earth's surface. This can only happen at New Moon.

There are between two and five solar eclipses each year but each one is visible only from a specific area.

The 1999 total eclipse was the first to be seen from England since 1927 - the next total eclipse to be seen there will occur in 2090.

The first total solar eclipse of the 21st century took place on 21 June 2001.

It was visible from a much smaller area than the 1999 eclipse with the best views in southern Africa.

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