Prayers, cheers as total eclipse darkens swathe of Asia

PALEMBANG, Indonesia - People gazed at the sky in wonder and cheered while others knelt in prayer as a total eclipse of the sun unfolded over Indonesia on Wednesday, briefly plunging cities into darkness and startling wildlife.

See Full Article

The rare astronomical phenomenon was witnessed along a narrow path that stretched across 12 Indonesian provinces encompassing three time zones and about 40 million people. A partial eclipse was visible in other parts of the Indonesian archipelago, a swath of Asia and in northern Australia.

Thousands of eclipse-chasers flocked to Indonesia from abroad and the government, which has been the promoting the event for more than a year, forecast a substantial tourism boost. Some tour groups chartered ships to view the eclipse, which began in the Indian Ocean and ended in the Pacific, at sea. A dozen Americans joined a commercial flight from Anchorage, Alaska, to Honolulu because its flight path would rendezvous with an eclipse sweet spot north of Hawaii.

Thousands of men, women and children who gathered in Sigi Biromaru, a hilltop town of Indonesia's Central Sulawesi province, shouted and clapped as the sun transformed into a dark orb for more than two minutes. Hundreds of others prayed at nearby mosques.

"The sun totally disappeared. How amazing this sunny morning suddenly changed to dark," said Junaz Amir, a Sigi resident who witnessed the eclipse with his family using special protective glasses.

In Ternate, one of the last cities in the eclipse's path, some residents said they were viewing it by looking at the reflected image in bowls of water. Experts say the total eclipse can be viewed with the naked eye but specific filters should be used during its partial phases to avoid permanent damage to the retina.

Most eclipses are partial but when the moon is close enough to the Earth, the sun is completely eclipsed by the moon's shadow and only a spectacular ring of rays known as the corona is visible.

The last time a total eclipse occurred over Indonesia was in 1988. Unfounded fears and misinformation caused panic, with people papering windows and keeping children indoors.

Cloudy skies in parts of Indonesia dampened the spectacle for some. In Palembang, a Sumatran city of more than 1.4 million, thousands of residents from mothers carrying infants to old men gathered at its landmark Ampera bridge from well before dawn. But the total eclipse was only briefly visible if at all.

"Too bad we cannot see when the total solar eclipse occurred, but the dark atmosphere when it happened made us feel happy," said Palembang resident Martha Sembiring.

There was also disappointment for a group of six eclipse chasers who travelled from Canada and the U.S. to Kalimantan.

"Unfortunately we got nothing because we had rain showers and solid cloud," said optometrist Ralph Chou who was hoping to see his 19th total solar eclipse.

Chou, a Canadian who helped develop the international standards for eclipse filters, said there were still impressive effects of light and darkness, and birds appeared confused and disoriented by dark falling again after dawn.

The previous total solar eclipse was in March last year and was best viewed on Norway's Svalbard islands near the North Pole. The next total eclipse will occur in August 2017 and be visible over a slice of North America.

The entire eclipse, which began with the first patch of darkness appearing on the edge of the sun, lasted about three hours.

For the viewer, the length of time the sun was totally eclipsed depended on their location along the path. On land the durations were mostly between 1 and 3 minutes.

In the capital, Jakarta, thousands of residents packed a planetarium at a downtown park where officials distributed about 4,000 filtered viewing glasses that quickly ran out. The eclipse, which from the vantage point of Jakarta produced an impressive crescent, was also streamed on monitors around the planetarium.

Scientists from NASA and Indonesia's aerospace agency observed the eclipse from Maba in the Maluku islands.


Ali Kotarumalos and Niniek Karmini in Jakarta, George Rajaloa in Ternate, Abdy Mari in Sigi Biromaru and Rachel D'oro in Anchorage contributed.


Latest Canada & World News

  • Pope Francis’ top financial adviser, cardinal questioned over sex allegations

    World News Toronto Sun
    SYDNEY, Australia — Australian police flew to Rome to interview a top Vatican cardinal about allegations of sexual assault dating back decades, officials said Wednesday. Cardinal George Pell, Pope Francis’ top financial adviser and one of his most trusted aides, has long been dogged by allegations he mishandled cases of clergy abuse when he was archbishop of Melbourne and later Sydney. Source
  • L.A. man with arsenal charged with making threats to Islamic centre

    World News CBC News
    A Los Angeles man found with multiple weapons and hundreds of pounds of ammunition in his home was charged with making terrorist threats to the Islamic Center of Southern California, authorities announced Tuesday. Mark Lucian Feigin was arrested last week on the charge, which has been designated as a hate crime, according to the Los Angeles Police Department. Source
  • Homeless sue Denver over sweeps of encampments

    World News Toronto Sun
    DENVER — When Jerry Burton’s sleeping bag and tent were removed by city workers from his campsite near a rapidly developing area close to downtown Denver, he was able to start over again with backup gear he keeps hidden for emergencies — whether his or someone else’s. Source
  • Cold Lake private Christian school shut down over alleged $1 million mismanagement [Video]

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    A Christian school board in Cold Lake was shut down Tuesday after financial irregularities were discovered, including directing nearly $1 million to a third party that was allegedly spending public cash on liquor, parties and gift cards. Source
  • Calgary top cop on the defensive, again, after damning 2013 workplace review surfaces

    Canada News CBC News
    Calgary's police chief is on the defensive after a three-year-old workplace review has surfaced showing a culture of bullying, harassment, intimidation and retaliation. The 29-page redacted document outlines a police service that some viewed as an "Old Boys Network," including interviews which revealed instances of workplace bullying and harassment involving men and women. Source
  • Chestermere crime kingpin jailed and fined

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    Crime kingpin Dung Kien Luong was sentenced Tuesday to 5 1/2 years in prison and ordered to pay fines of $1.5 million for tax evasion and other charges. Luong, 53, had earlier pleaded guilty to four charges as part of a plea deal which saw several others withdrawn by the Crown. Source
  • Indians shut down Cubs in World Series opener

    World News CBC News
    Corey Kluber got the Cleveland Indians off to a great start and Roberto Perez finished off the Chicago Cubs in their first World Series game since 1945. Kluber dominated into the seventh inning, Perez hit two home runs and the Indians beat the Cubs 6-0 in the opener Tuesday night. Source
  • Okla. police continue hunt for man accused of killing relatives, filming crime spree

    World News CTV News
    GRAPHIC CONTENT warning: Some of the details in this story are disturbing. OKLAHOMA CITY -- Authorities have spent more than 24 hours seeking a man they say posted live videos to social media while running from police during a violent crime spree that included shooting two police officers, armed car thefts and killing his aunt and uncle, apparently attempting to sever their heads. Source
  • Getting North Korea to give up nukes a 'lost cause,' U.S. intel chief says

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- National Intelligence director James Clapper said Tuesday that the U.S. goal of persuading North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons is probably a "lost cause" and the best hope is to cap its capability. Source
  • Advocacy group calls on B.C. to release provincewide stats on police-dog bites

    Canada News CTV News
    VANCOUVER - A month after a bystander was mistakenly mauled by a Vancouver police dog, a legal advocacy group is calling on the provincial government to release newly gathered numbers outlining how many people are being bitten in British Columbia. Source