Sun and moon, an afternoon of gloom ...

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For Some the clouds spoiled it completely, but for others they parted just long enough to allow a view of the best partial solar eclipse in Britain for 35 years, writes Charles Bain.

At vantage points around the country amateur astronomers set up their equipment and members of the public crowded around to watch, but even the lucky ones had to wait to see anything.

In London it was due to appear at 1.59pm but clouds obscured it until an hour later. Then suddenly the view was clear. "That's brilliant; it's made it all worthwhile," said Maggie Daly of the Society for Popular Astronomy, watching in Hyde Park. "It educates people and gives them something to look at, something new if they haven't seen it before."

Scotland, which in fine weather would have had the best view, was less fortunate, and over much of the country the best that could be seen through the cloud cover was a dull outline.

Solar eclipses occur when the sun, moon and Earth line up with the moon in the middle. At the high point yesterday, the moon was blocking out more than half of the sun. It was the fourth time since the early 1960s that Britain has been able to witness a solar eclipse. A total eclipse is due on 11 August 1999.