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Solar eclipse predicted at same time as World Cup final

Tourists on Easter Island will be ablse to see the solar eclipse.
Tourists on Easter Island will be ablse to see the solar eclipse.
  • A total solar eclipse is predicted at sunrise in the Cook Islands
  • It is expected to last about 5 minutes and 20 seconds
  • Tourism booms in the Cook Islands because of the rare astronomical event

(CNN) -- It is unlikely anything would fully eclipse the World Cup final, but the universe is giving it a shot.

A total solar eclipse is predicted to start at sunrise in the Cook Islands on July 11 -- when the World Cup 2010 final will be in play.

It's set to take place in the southern Pacific across the French Polynesia, according to NASA's report on the Annular and Total Solar Eclipses of 2010.

A solar eclipse happens when the moon comes between the sun and Earth so all or part of the sun's light is blocked from Earth, NASA said.

Those eager to catch both major global events have little to fear, however. With an estimated duration of 5 minutes and 20 seconds, the total eclipse will be brief, visible in Tahiti before it reaches the middle of the South Pacific.

"The large crowds that have gathered in the Cook Islands, Tahiti and Easter Island for the event will only be distracted away from the World Cup match for a brief moment. They can return to it right after," said Tata Crocombe, chairman of Cook Islands Tourism Corp.

See a photo from Easter Island

In the Cook Islands, tourism has boomed because of the rare astronomical event. (Total eclipses occur every one or two years, and rarely in the same location, according to NASA.)

Crocombe said that in Mangaia, the southernmost of the Cook Islands, there are currently about 400 visitors, which exceeds the number of incoming tourists to Cook Islands for an entire year and is equivalent to the Island's population.

A lot of planning and preparation took place in anticipation of the event, and the expected surge in tourists to the area, according to Ewan Smith, managing director of Air Rarotonga.

"The first tour group contacted us about 18 months ago. We are now working with specialized eclipse tour companies, and have made arrangements to ship additional bedding and logistical equipment to the Islands," Smith said. "We even have eclipse observation flights, where tourists rendezvous down the path of the eclipse at a high altitude, enjoying about three minutes and 45 seconds of total eclipse."

Smith said interest has been overwhelming.

"I am astonished ... we have visitors from all around the world, from large groups of Japanese to Americans arriving with daypacks and telescopes."

Solar eclipses have long been known to draw crowds and attention. Not only have they helped in the development of great scientific achievements such as the invention of the Camera Obscura by the Philosopher Aristotle, some cultures see the phenomena as a mythological and ominous sign.

Whatever the cosmic clash between the July 11 eclipse and World Cup Final 2010 represents, it is undoubtedly an exhilarating and wondrous moment for skygazers and football supporters alike.


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