By Anne-Marie Emerson

Describing it as awesome, amazing and cool, Wanganui people were just as taken with yesterday's solar eclipse as everyone else in our part of the planet.

The partial eclipse, at its height around 10.30am, saw 80 per cent of the Sun blocked out by the Moon. Light became dim, shadows were hazy, and the temperature dropped noticeably.

Viewed through special solar glasses, the sun appeared as a bright, white crescent against the darkness.

In the far north of Queensland, the eclipse was total, turning day into night in a matter of seconds.

Wanganui's weather forecast was for morning showers but the city remained dry, with only passing clouds.

The Ward Observatory in Cooks Gardens was open to the public all morning and Mark Lee from the Wanganui Astronomical Society said several hundred people had already visited the observatory by the time the eclipse was at its height.

Mr Lee said viewing conditions were good.

"We've had a few clouds go over but everyone has been able to see the eclipse," Mr Lee said.

Telescopes were set up and the society was selling solar glasses to visitors.

Among the visitors to the observatory were students from Te Kura o Ratana, who were awestruck by the solar display.

"It's cool. I've never seen an eclipse before," pupil Kororia Mulligan said.

Also enjoying the eclipse were students at St John's Hill School, who were spread out on their playing fields to observe the phenomenon through solar glasses.

Several classes had had a talk from optometrist Kerry Bennett, who explained what the eclipse was and how to protect the eyes when watching it. Teacher Jan Pickett said she had never seen an eclipse before and was delighted by the view through her solar glasses.

"It's absolutely amazing," she said.

Mr Lee said a full solar eclipse happened about once every 18 months but they occurred in different locations around the globe.

He said the next partial solar eclipse visible from Wanganui would happen in 2028, while Wanganui residents would have to wait until 2035 to see the next full solar eclipse.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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