All eyes were turned to the heavens early on Friday for a solar eclipse offering spectacular views from selected airplane seats, European countries with clear skies and a remote Arctic archipelago.
Die-hard eclipse junkies flew in from around the world to the Faroe Islands and Norway’s Arctic Svalbard archipelago to observe the less than three minutes of daytime darkness, a phenomenon that has fascinated mankind since the beginning of time.
Europeans got their first glimpse through cloudy skies in Spain’s Canary Islands in the early morning.
“We can see perfectly well the disc of the moon... It is one of the most marvellous astronomical spectacles you can see,” Alfred Rosenberg, an astrophysicist at the Canaries Astrophysics Institute told AFP from the island of Tenerife.
In the Swedish capital Stockholm a crescent-shaped sun shone through overcast skies as temperatures dropped, prompting people in the city’s business district to stop and take pictures with their smartphones.
Eclipse enthusiasts were less lucky in Denmark’s far-flung Faroe Islands.
“There are drifting clouds, and there is a large blue hole on the way. We’ve just had a quick sighting of the sun which is now almost half covered,” Ole J Knudsen, an astrophysicist at Denmark’s Aarhus University told AFP from the rainy Faroe Islands capital Torshavn.
As with previous eclipses experts warned the public not to look directly at the sun due to the danger of eye damage.
Around 500 people gathered in London’s Regent’s Park under an overcast sky, hopeful of a glimpse of the partial eclipse as it moved across European skies before heading northwards via North Africa and the Middle East.
A police officer handed out special eclipse viewer glasses.
Eight-year-old Rufus Aagaard had brought along a home-made viewer, fashioned out of a cardboard tube.
“It’s made of cardboard, paper, Sellotape and tin foil, and a pinprick on the end,” he told AFP.
More than 8,000 visitors gathered in the Faroes, where the total eclipse began at 9:41 am (local time), and some 1,500 to 2,000 were expected in Svalbard, where it started at 11:11 am.
A group of 50 Danes bought tickets aboard a Boeing 737 chartered by a science magazine to watch the event from the skies above the Faroe Islands.
While they will be shielded from the vagaries of Faroese weather, there are some things they won’t get to experience when watching the eclipse from the sky.