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Longest solar eclipse of the century over Asia

The moon passes between the sun and the earth during a total solar eclipse in Varanasi, India, Wednesday, July 22, 2009. The longest solar eclipse of the 21st century pitched a swath of Asia from India to China into near darkness Wednesday as millions gathered to watch the phenomenon.
A total solar eclipse is seen in Varanasi, India, Wednesday, July 22, 2009.
A total solar eclipse is seen from an aircraft over Patna, India, Wednesday, July 22, 2009.
The sun emerges after a total solar eclipse in Varanasi, India, Wednesday, July 22, 2009.
A partiall solar eclipse is seen in Yanguan town, Haining City, China, Wednesday, July 22, 2009.

The solar eclipse that enveloped parts of Asia in darkness this morning for over six minutes was the longest of the century and sent streams of stargazers to India, China and Japan.

It was viewed by millions across densely populated regions of Asia and is thought to have been the most-viewed eclipse in human history. Around 30 million people watched the event in China alone.

The eclipse first appeared just before 1am GMT at in India’s Gulf of Khambhat just north of the metropolis of Mumbai. The shadow of the Moon then moved east across Nepal, Burma, Bangladesh, Bhutan and China before hitting the Pacific.

It passed across some southern Japanese islands and was last visible from land at Nikumaroro Island in the South Pacific nation of Kiribati at 4.19am GMT. A partial eclipse was visible in much of Asia between midnight and 5am.

Lasting six minutes and 39 seconds at its maximum point, it was the longest solar eclipse of the 21st century and will not be surpassed in duration until June 13 2132.

The maximum point occurred in the ocean just after 2.30am GMT about 62miles south of the Bonin Islands, south-east of Japan.

Astronomers travelled across the world for a rare prolonged view of the sun’s corona, a white ring 600,000 miles from the sun’s surface. According to Nasa, Taregana in the eastern Indian state of Bihar was the best place to witness the event.

A total eclipse can never last more than seven minutes, 40 seconds and is usually much shorter. During each millennium, fewer than 10 total solar eclipses last longer than seven minutes. The last time it happened was in 1973, when the Moon blocked out the Sun for seven minutes and three seconds.

The longest total solar eclipse during the 8,000-year period from 3000 BC to 5000 AD will occur on July 16 2186, when totality will last seven minuntes and 29 seconds.

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