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Skygazers cheer solar eclipse

The view in Ceduna
The view in Ceduna

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Astronomy buffs and tourists headed to parts of South Africa and Australia to view a rare total solar eclipse (December 4)
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Most space experts consider viewing a total eclipse with the naked eye safe but stress that partial eclipses, including partial eclipse phases before and after a total eclipse, should only be observed with certain safety precautions to prevent possibly serious eye damage.
Specialized sun filters or strong welder's glasses can protect the eyes. Also, viewers can use a simple indirect method to watch the silhouette of the eclipsing sun as it waxes and wanes through partial phases.
To do so, aim sunlight through a homemade pinhole camera or something else with a pinprick hole in it. Guide the focused sunlight onto a white background such as a sheet of paper. Of course, don't look through the hole directly at the sun.

CEDUNA, Australia (CNN) -- Tens of thousands of people celebrated in South Australia after witnessing a total eclipse of the sun, joining others in the Southern Hemisphere that witnessed the remarkable event.

Some cheered, some gazed in wonder, but all were grateful the skies cleared just in time for the celestial show on Wednesday, which lasted a mere 32 seconds as the moon passed between the Earth and the sun.

'Eclipse Central' in Australia was the tiny town of Ceduna on the edge of Australia's Great Southern Desert and home to only a few thousand locals.

Around 40,000 amateur skygazers and professional eclipse chasers had massed near and in the Outback town to view one of nature's most astonishing spectacles as day briefly turned into night.

Cheers and applause erupted as the moon completely obscured the sun, creating a ring of light -- the solar corona -- to reveal a starting glimpse of giant solar flares.

Cars, campervans and tents crowded a strip near Ceduna just 34 kilometers wide and 900 kilometers long that marked the zone of total eclipse, while buskers and street stalls turned the event into a fully-fledged "solarbration."

The total eclipse was the first to cover Australian shores since 1976, with the next not predicted for several more decades.

Cosmic show

The eclipse first struck land in Africa at about 0515 GMT on Wednesday, with groups of enthusiasts wearing special eclipse-watching spectacles gathered on beaches near the Angolan capital, Luanda.

Traveling at about 5,000 kilometers an hour the shadow then sped across the continent casting parts of Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa into darkness before heading out to sea through Mozambique, which declared a national holiday to mark the event.

In several areas, however, cloudy skies spoiled the view for hopeful eclipse-watchers.

The path of the total eclipse was projected to pass through only a relatively few urban centers, forcing many eclipse-watchers to camp out in the hope of getting a perfect view.

Young villagers in Tshipidzi village in Venda, South Africa look to the heavens
Young villagers in Tshipidzi village in Venda, South Africa look to the heavens

In several African countries the eclipse was billed as a big tourist draw, with special festivals and other events designed to cream off much-needed tourist dollars from the cosmic show.

Scientists and doctors repeated warnings about the dangers to eyesight of looking directly at the sun.

Experts say only specially made spectacles or other viewing devices should be used for viewing the eclipse.

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