| Tourists watch a solar eclipse in the Australian outback town of Lyndhurst, 700 km north of Adelaide, on Wednesday. (Reuters)
Musina (South Africa), Dec. 4 (Reuters): Skies darkened over southern Africa and Australia today as a rare total solar eclipse raced across both continents, delighting astronomers, astounding tourists and confusing animals as day became night.
“It’s amazing for us,” said 15-year-old Rhengu Baloyi as he peered skywards with special eclipse glasses distributed by South African tourism authorities. “For a moment I thought our lives were going to be endangered.”
The eclipse first touched African shores at around 0515 GMT as the moon moved in between the sun and the earth, blocking out the summer sunshine. Starting from Angola, the lunar shadow sped eastward across the continent at speeds greater than 5,000 km per hour, momentarily casting parts of Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa into darkness before heading out to sea at Xai-Xai in Mozambique.
The total eclipse touched southern Australia at 0910 GMT.
Thousands of astronomers, serious and amateur, tourists and new age worshippers gathered on a beach at the outback coastal town of Ceduna on the south Australian coast to watch the astronomical phenomenon.
Sitting on deck chairs or beach towels Australians watched in awe as the moon crept across the sun, applauding “totality”, and claiming the ocean seemed to calm as the eclipse occured.
In Sydney, sky watchers were treated to the sight of brown smoke from dozens of bushfires wreathing the setting sun as the moon crept slowly up its face.
In northern South Africa, cars pulled to the side of the road in rural areas in and around the country’s famous Kruger National Park as tourists put themselves into prime position to see the celestial spectacular.
It grew colder, the sky grew black and the murmuring crowd went quiet as the moon passed in front of the sun. “It’s awesome,” said Cherie, a South African woman.
Nearby, dancers kicked up clouds of dust at an all-night rave party held to mark the eclipse. People sporting nose-rings, tattoos and tie-dyed shirts boogied in the bush to booming techno music.
“It was amazing. Life is never going to be the same after this,” said Ben, a wild-haired rave fan from Cape Town decked out in surfer necklaces and mirrored sunglasses.