Disappointment for sky-gazers as clouds blot out solar eclipse

Dense cloud cover disappointed most British sky-gazers hoping to catch a glimpse of a partial solar eclipse yesterday.

The dramatic sight of the Moon passing between the Sun and the Earth could be witnessed in parts of East Anglia and the south coast of England, as well as across the much of the globe.

But the majority of the country remained swathed in cloud, meaning Britain's first partial solar eclipse since August 2008 was hidden from view.

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Among those thwarted by the overcast conditions were members of the Newcastle Astronomical Society, who set up telescopes and recording equipment to capture the phenomenon at St Mary's Lighthouse in Whitley Bay, near Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

But the cloud remained stubbornly in front of the Sun and the astronomers went away with nothing.

The Met Office said parts of East Anglia and the south coast of England were clear, but most of the UK was overcast during the eclipse between about 8am and 9.30am.

The cloudy conditions over Britain at least reduced the chances of eclipse-watchers damaging their eyesight.

Scientists warned that looking directly at the sun for even a few seconds could cause permanent impairment to vision.

Solar eclipses occur when the moon lines up to cast a shadow on the Earth's surface that obscures the sun.

Yesterday's eclipse was visible across much of the Middle East, Europe, North Africa and central Asia.

Sweden was expected to experience the greatest eclipse, with about 85 per cent of the sun blocked out.

The last total eclipse of the sun visible from Britain took place in August 1999.