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Three continents see eclipse of sun

2006-07-01 11:33

  Millions of people have witnessed a total eclipse of the sun as the moon cast its shadow from America through Europe and on to Asia.

  For people in Britain it was the first time they could see this natural phenomenon since 1927.

  From Greenwich to Glasgow, thousands of skywatchers using smoked glass or overexposed film could see at least 75% of the sun obscured.

  But the view from the most northerly island of Britain - the Shetland isle of Unst, and the only point of totality in Britain - was largely obscured by cloud and drizzle.

  When the sun was totally eclipsed by the moon, the skies turned dark for a few seconds, the temperature dropped and birds flew back to their nests.

  There will not be another total eclipse visible from Britain until August 1999.

  Shadow across the world

  The shadow was first spotted in Nebraska, North America, at 1208 BST today. It then passed over Labrador and across the Atlantic at a speed of about 1,800 mph (2,897 km/h).

  The eclipse was seen in Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Belarus, Ukraine, Russia, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.

  In India, 400,000 Hindu pilgrims bathed in holy water at Kurukhestan in the Punjab. They believe that the eclipse is caused by two gods, Rahu and Ketu, trying to swallow the Sun and Moon.

  The longest duration of totality was two minutes 35 seconds.

  In Sweden about 400 scientists from all over the world gathered to observe the eclipse which cast an 80-mile (128-km) shadow across the country.

  It is hoped data from observing the corona - the outer atmosphere of the sun, that is highlighted by such an eclipse - will teach us more about the shape of the Earth, positions of the moon and the rays of the sun.

  The deaths follow the 1967 death of a cosmonaut onboard Soyuz 1

  1971: Space mission ends in tragedy

  Artificially 1969:

  The Three Russian cosmonauts have been found dead in their space capsule after it made what looked like a perfect landing in Kazakhstan.

  Lieutenant-Colonel Georgi Dobrovolsky, Vladislav Volkoy and Viktor Patsayev were found dead in their seats on the Soyuz 11 but did not appear to have suffered any physical injuries.

  Post mortem examinations are being carried out and the Soviet Government has ordered an immediate inquiry into the tragedy.

  The most likely causes are oxygen failure on re-entry into the atmosphere or unknown side-effects of their lengthy stay in space.

  The crew had spent a record 24 days in space, the longest period anyone has yet remained "weightless" and experts believe this could be linked to their deaths.

  The cosmonauts had become the first men to stay at a space station when they docked with the Soviet Salyut 1. They were conducting scientific experiments and observations during their trip which started when they launched on 6 June.

  The tragedy follows a number of problems involving Soyuz craft and could seriously damage the future of the Soviet space programme.

  In 1969 Vladimir Komarov became the first man to die in space when the parachute on his Soyuz 1 developed trouble on landing and, after several other troubled missions, the flight by Soyuz 10 was abandoned before any of the crew boarded the space station due to technical difficulties.

  The men will be buried at the Kremlin wall alongside Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space.

  To acknowledge the magnitude of what the crew undertook they were immediately named Heroes of the Soviet Union. Mr Volkov has been given a Gold Star medal as he was previously named a hero of Soviet Union.

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