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LEAD: Cloud enhances 'beautiful' eclipse in South Australia.

SYDNEY, Dec. 4 Kyodo

(EDS: UPDATING) Fears an overcast sky could obscure Australia's first total eclipse of the sun in 26 years were relieved Wednesday, with witnesses reporting scattered cloud only ''made it more wonderful.''

South Australia's small coastal town Ceduna, population 3,500, was inundated by more than 15,000 amateur and professional astronomers seeking a glimpse of the eclipse, which lasted just 32 seconds at 7:40 p.m. local time.

''There was a fair bit of cloud,'' Ceduna Airport Caravan Park owner Stephen Foster told Kyodo News.

''The eclipse kept poking through the cloud, teasing everyone that was watching, creating different colors all over the sky,'' he said.

Watching the ''quite beautiful'' solar event had been moving and people stood in silence around the small town, Foster said.

The shadow of the moon was projected onto a path only 36 kilometers wide and traveled at a speed of about 23,000 kilometers per hour from the ocean, passing directly over Ceduna, and headed northeast across the outback to the smaller town of Lyndhurst where it finished at sunset.

Eclipse gazers saw the black disc of the moon hiding the totally eclipsed sun with only a solar halo visible from the lunar shadow.

Ceduna had been transformed into a tent city and a two-day eclipse festival featuring music, street parties and local food had entertained the town's visitors, Ceduna eclipse spokesman Rob Curkpatrick said.

Many eclipse followers had traveled long distances for a peak at the solar event, including 22 American astronomers and a Japanese contingent of 280 eclipse chasers.

The eclipse was also seen in southern Africa, parts of Indonesia, and eastern Antarctica.
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Publication:Asian Economic News
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Dec 9, 2002
Words:276
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