SIDE, Turkey (AP) – Thousands of skygazers gathered in an ancient temple of Apollo and let out cheers yesterday as a total solar eclipse turned day into twilight, casting an eerie blue glow across the sky and the Mediterranean Sea.
NASA astronomers handed out protective glasses to hundreds of Turkish children before the eclipse cut a dark swath across the sky – a band that stretched from Brazil, across West Africa, Turkey and Central Asia, then disappeared at sunset in Mongolia.
The last total solar eclipse was in November 2003, but that was best viewed from sparsely populated Antarctica. Yesterday’s eclipse blocked the sun in highly populated areas.
In Ghana, automatic street lamps switched on as the light faded, and authorities sounded emergency whistles in celebration.
Sunni and Shiite Muslims in Iraq were summoned to mosques during the eclipse for a special prayer reserved for times of fear and natural disasters.
In the Turkish resort of Side, a crowd of 10,000 cheered and whistled as the moon took its first bite out of the sun. When the moon masked the sun and Venus suddenly appeared in the blue glow of the darkened sky, another loud cheer went up.
“It’s one of those experiences that makes you feel like you’re part of the larger universe,” said NASA astronomer Janet Luhmann who witnessed the eclipse from the ruins of an ancient Roman theater just a few hundred feet from the temple of Apollo.