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NASA Eclipse Coverage Wows Worlds Web Watchers

The sun's corona, or outer atmosphere, is visible during totality -- when the sun is totally obscured by the moon's shadow. Credit: NASA TV
by Staff Writers
Berkeley CA (SPX) Mar 29, 2006
NASA gave people around the world a safe front-row seat to Wednesday's total solar eclipse. Along with its partners, the University of California, Berkeley, and the Exploratorium, the space agency provided a streaming Webcast showing the eclipse - visible along a path from South America to Africa to Asia � live to schools, museums and computer desktops worldwide.

NASA organized the eclipse coverage as part of Sun-Earth Day, which each year attempts to raise understanding of how the Sun interacts with Earth and other planets in the solar system. This year's theme, "Eclipse: In a Different Light," examined how eclipses have inspired people to observe and understand the Sun-Earth-Moon system.

For the first time, NASA and Libyan scientists conducted joint scientific activities in Libya to observe and study the event.

A total solar eclipse is very rare because it requires the Moon to be in its new phase, and the central part of its shadow � call the umbra � to pass over a given spot on Earth.

Wednesday's eclipse path began in Brazil and extended across the Atlantic Ocean, Northern Africa and Central Asia where it ended at sunset in Northern Mongolia. The partial eclipse path, within the much broader path of the moon's penumbral shadow, included the northern two thirds of Africa, Europe and Central Asia.

During a total eclipse, the entire disk of the Sun is temporarily blocked out, because a fluke of positioning causes the 3,476 kilometer (2,160 mile) wide Moon to fit precisely over the 1.4-million kilometer (870,000 mile) wide Sun. When this happens, the sky darkens as though it is nighttime and, for a very brief time, the Sun's corona, or outer atmosphere, becomes visible.

Astronomers take special interest in total solar eclipses because it is the only time they can study the corona, which remains a mystery because of its extremely high temperatures � up to 2-million degrees Fahrenheit. The Sun's surface temperature is only 10,000 degrees F. Careful measurements and experiments made during a total eclipse can help to unravel this enigma.

This year's eclipse is special because the phase of totality lasted over four minutes at the center of the path. Most eclipses last only a minute or two, such as the next total eclipse, on Aug. 1, 2008, which will last only about two minutes. It will be seen in northern Canada, Greenland, Siberia, Mongolia and northern China.

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Eclipse To Bring Ghanaians Experience Of A Lifetime
Accra (AFP) Mar 29, 2006
People across Ghana are preparing for a rare lifetime opportunity when the country experiences its first total solar eclipse in 59 years, amid fears that fake viewing glasses could render people blind.

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