Millions Witness Century's Longest Solar Eclipse

Millions watch the longest solar eclipse expected to occur this century.

ByABC News
July 22, 2009, 4:19 AM

July 22, 2009 — -- Hundreds of millions of people across parts of the world's most populated nations, China and India, witnessed today what's expected to be the longest solar eclipse of the 21st century.

The eclipse became visible at sunrise today local time in Taregna, a village in eastern India, and moved across a 155-mile-wide ribbon of Asia, including areas of Nepal, Bangladesh, China and part of the Pacific Ocean.

The total eclipse started when the moon completely blocked out the sun in the village, which scientists said was the best place to view the spectacular event, at 6:24 a.m. local time.

In Varanasi, India, a Hindu holy city on the Ganges River, clear skies allowed the curious to get a perfect view of the event, but there were heavy clouds over much of the region, disappointing millions who had hoped to see the eclipse.

That may have included eclipse enthusiasts from around the world who descended on the region to view the event by land, sea and air to catch a glimpse of the phenomenon, which lasted six minutes and 39 seconds in some areas.

Awed by the rare experience of watching the moon block the light of the sun, "eclipse chasers" go to the ends of the Earth, often paying thousands of dollars for the perfect view and the maximum duration of darkness.

"Most people who go on these tours, they've seen one or more eclipses. They become hooked on it," said Paul D. Maley, a NASA contractor leading an eclipse tour in Shanghai, China, for Houston-based Ring of Fire Expeditions, an astronomical tour organization.