The Eclipse: Russia - World shares a strange ceremony of science, superstition and awe

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The Independent Online
VISITORS TO the Black Sea resort of Sochi - where the eclipse was 98 per cent - peered skywards through chunks of smoke-blackened broken glass or ordinary glasses with film negatives Sellotaped over them.

Safety warnings appeared to have fallen on deaf ears generally: one paper advised readers to look at the blocked-out Sun through a hand-made viewer made from a rolled-up copy of the newspaper with a piece of paper at one end.

A live programme devoted to the eclipse on NTV television, one of the main national channels, was bombarded with questions from viewers: what will the effect of an eclipse be on someone who is born today? What kind of fate can that person expect? How dangerous is an eclipse? Will it have any influence on President Boris Yeltsin and, if so, how?

The three cosmonauts orbiting Earth on the Russian space station Mir became the first people to see from space how the Moon's shadow travelled over the Earth during the eclipse.

NTV showed film from the cosmonauts - two Russians and a Frenchman - in which a vast black shadow sailed over Plymouth before heading over northern France.

"This has never been seen before by anyone; no one has ever seen this before from space," said Viktor Blagov, deputy flight controller.

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