People gazed at the sky in wonder and cheered while others knelt in prayer as a total eclipse of the sun unfolded over Indonesia on Wednesday.
The rare astronomical event is being witnessed along a narrow path that stretches across 12 provinces encompassing three time zones and about 40 million people. In other parts of the Indonesian archipelago and Asia, a partial eclipse is visible. Thousands of eclipse-chasers have come from abroad and the government, which has been the promoting the event for more than a year, expects a substantial tourism boost.
Thousands of men, women and children gathered in Sigi Biromaru, a hilltop town of Central Sulawesi province, shouted and clapped as the sun disappeared for more than two minutes. Hundreds of others were praying at nearby mosques.
“The sun totally disappeared. How amazing this sunny morning suddenly changed to dark,” said Junaz Amir, a Sigi resident who witnessed the eclipse with his family.
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Most eclipses are partial but when the moon is close enough to the Earth, the sun is completely eclipsed by the moon’s shadow and only a faint ring of rays known as the corona is visible.
“I’m so happy that I can see this rare phenomenon in my life,” said Nurjanah Hassan, a mother of three in Ternate in eastern Indonesia, which will be one of the last cities in the eclipse’s path.
Hassan said she and other residents plan to view the eclipse through bowls filled with water. Experts say the total eclipse can be viewed with the naked eye but special filters should be used during its partial phases to avoid permanent damage to the retina.
The entire eclipse, which begins with the first patch of darkness appearing on the edge of the sun, will last about three hours.
For the viewer, the length of time the sun is totally eclipsed depends on their location along the path. The moments in which the sun is entirely obscured will last between 90 seconds and 4 minutes.
In the capital Jakarta, thousands of residents packed a planetarium at a downtown park where officials distributed about 4,000 filtered viewing glasses.
Cloudy skies in parts of Indonesia dampened the spectacle for some.
“It is now dark here, but unfortunately, we cannot see the sun. It is totally covered by clouds,” said Hery Gus in Bengkulu, a southwestern province of Sumatra.