Myth and Mystery Surround Wednesday's Solar Eclipse

UPDATE: The Eclipse is over. See pictures.

Tourists and scientists are gathering at spots around the world for a total solar eclipse Wednesday that will sweep northeast from Brazil to Mongolia, blotting out the Sun across swathes of of the world's poorest lands.

Day will turn briefly to dark twilight in the eclipse's path as the Moon comes between the Earth and the Sun. [Viewer's Guide]

As is often the case, the eclipse is shrouded in mystery and misinformation.

The event will occur in highly populated areas, including west Africa, where governments scrambled to educate people about the dangers of looking at the eclipse without proper eye protection.

A total solar eclipse is safe to watch during the darkness of totality. But when Sun is not fully blocked by the Moon, its light can easily damage the eyes, so special protection is required. Rather than explain this in detail, officials have issued simple warnings.

In Togo, authorities imported hundreds of thousands of pairs of special glasses that consumers cleared rapidly from shelves in the capital, Lome. But villagers in the interior won't have access to the eyewear and officials called on them to stay home.

"Please, do not go out and keep your children indoors on solar eclipse day,'' Togo's minister for health said in a message broadcast on state television.

An Associated Press report published on the Internet warned of looking at the Sun's corona. The corona is the Sun's atmosphere, and it will be visible when the Moon blocks out the main disk of the Sun. Viewing the corona during totality is safe.

In Ghana, people were spending about US$1 (about 80 euro cents) for "solar shades''-paper-rimmed glasses with dark plastic lenses that resemble eyewear used for viewing three-dimensional movies.

Crowds were anticipated in prime viewing points, among them Accra, the capital of Ghana, and in Turkey and India.

Tens of thousands of tourists were expected along the Turkish Mediterranean coast. Astronomers from NASA and Britain's Royal Institute of Astronomy also were going to an ancient Roman amphitheater in Turkey to view the phenomenon.

The Moon is expected to first begin blocking out the Sun in the morning in Brazil before the path of greatest blockage migrates to Africa, then on to Turkey and up into Mongolia, where it will fade out with the sunset.

Superstition will follow around the world, as it has for generations.

One Indian paper advised pregnant women not to go outside during the eclipse to avoid having a blind baby or one with a cleft lip. Food cooked before the eclipse should be thrown out afterward because it will be impure and those who are holding a knife or ax during the eclipse will cut themselves, the Hindustan Times added.'s Robert Roy Britt and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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