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Total eclipse of the sun darkens Indonesia

A solar eclipse has begun sweeping across the Asian Pacific Region, with some parts of Indonesia experiencing a total loss of light. The blackout will be the only full solar eclipse in 2016.

A rare

total eclipse started

to plunge parts of the Indonesian archipelago into complete daytime darkness on March 9. Stargazers from around the world flocked to remote Indonesian locales to observe the natural phenomenon, with an estimated 10,000 foreign visitors and 100,000 domestic tourists expected to be witnessing the solar eclipse.

"It's an extraordinary spectacle that only takes place about once a year in one part of the world," said Arnaud Fischer, a 33-year-old French tourist.

The eclipse was expected to be visible for up to 3 minutes starting at 7.21 a.m. local time (0021 UTC), according to the Indonesian Aeronautics and Space Agency.

Muslim leaders in Indonesia plan to perform eclipse prayers in mosques across the country, while tribal societies are also expected to perform their own rituals. Some of Indonesia's tribes are fearful of the phenomenon, with some performing rites intended to ensure that the sun returns.

The event will also be marked by celebrations and parties across the country.

Beyond Indonesia

A

solar eclipse

occurs when the moon passes directly between the Earth and the sun, obscuring the sun's reach and thereby casting a shadow over the planet. Parts experiencing the total eclipse include the western island of Sumatra and the Maluku Islands thousands of miles to the east, before it continues across the Pacific Ocean.

Partial eclipses will later be visible in northern Australia and parts of Southeast Asia.

The last total solar eclipse occurred almost a year ago on March 20, 2015, which was only visible on the Faroe Islands and Norway's Arctic Svalbard archipelago.

ss/rc (AFP, dpa)

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