The last total solar eclipse of the century occurred above Africa and the Indian sub-continent on Saturday (16 February).
GV: Scientists arrive on site at Maktau Hill, kenya by car.
GV: Scientists looking through instruments. (4 shots
GV: Crescent of moon eclipsing sun
GV: Observers look through special glasses. (2 shots)
GV: Sun almost totally eclipsed while scientists and observers look on. (4 shots)
GV: Full corona of sun eclipse
LS EXTERIOR: Jaipsl Rangapur observatory, India.
GV: Scientists with astronomy equipment (5 shots)
GV: Sun moving into total eclipse
GV: Sun in total eclipse and moving out. (2 shots)
GV: Pilgrims at kurkshetra, performing rituals. (4 shots)
GV: Sun moves behind moon
GV: Corona appears and Sun emerges with burst of light (2 shots)
CU PULL OUT TO WIDE SHOT: Pilgrims bathe in the holy tank of Brahma Sarovar
Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved
Background: The last total solar eclipse of the century occurred above Africa and the Indian sub-continent on Saturday (16 February). International scientists joined the local population to observe the spectacle from prime sites along the route as darkness swept eastward across the Equator. The first total eclipse for almost 82 years aroused great religious fervour in India. In Africa, periods of darkness, lasting up to four minutes, brought normal life to a halt.
SYNOPSIS: Maktau Hill, in kenya's Tsavo National Park, lay conveniently in the path of the eclipse. Astronomers from Japan, Europe and the United States commissioned light aircraft to make certain their view remained unaffected by the forecast of cloud. As the normal mid-morning temperature dropped by 26 degrees centigrade (78 Fahrenheit) animals became restive.
An eclipse of the sun is considered a bad omen in Africa. Tribal law demands that pregnant women remains indoors. Cooking post must be broken and discarded.
Shortly after 11 o'clock in the morning, local time, the chorus of evening birdsong died away. Wildlife on the surrounding plains was still and silent. Some of the brighter stars were visible as the moon moved across the sun. In the last few seconds before the eclipse the expected flashes of light, known as "Bailey's Beads", could be seen. They're the final rays of sunlight passing between the mountains of the lunar surface.
At India's Jaipsl Rangapur observatory the eclipse was measured with special lenses and polarising filters. Scientists recorded the intensity of the corona,and the temperature and velocity of its gasses.
The corona can be observed only during total eclipse, and this year marked a peak in the 11-year cycle of sunspot activity. Studies in other parts of India show that female been became more aggressive , and mental patients more disorderly during the eclipse.
Thousands of Hindu pilgrims gathered in Northern India, to bather in the holy waters of kurkshetra during the eclipse. The waters are believed to bring salvation on the day when, according to religious texts, "the demon God Rahu devours the Sun".
Holly man called "Rahdus" smeared themselves with ash and prayed for the sun's deliverance. Other blew conchae shells and meditated. The government declared a public holiday and hospitals opened special clinics to treat those who ignored warnings not to watch the eclipse without eye protection.
Some astrologers claimed the eclipse was a disaster omen for India. Thousands of village people abandoned their homes when the eclipse coincided with earth tremors in the north. The eclipse was visible for three minutes as the shadow crossed the country.