T HE tip of the moon's shadow traced a line across Siem Reap for a total of one minute
and 49 seconds, obscuring the sun completely and dropping temperatures by 10 or 15
The edge of the moon's 270 mile-wide shadow rushed across Cambodia at a speed of
1800 miles an hour.
Observers who waited in the upper levels of the Angkor temple could see it sweep
across the countryside and were stunned at the rapidity of its approach.
The shadow arrived at Angkor Wat at precisely 10:58:54am, plunging everything into
a dimness comparable to a full moon night.
The entire eclipse took more than three and a half hours from first to last contact,
but the total eclipse lasted less than two minutes.
A partial eclipse was seen in Phnom Penh, while the more rare total eclipse could
be seen in a narrow swath that ran from the Thai border to Siem Reap across the Mekong
to Kratie and then Vietnam.
Nature conspired in many ways to make the event spectacular. A low cloud cover to
the east produced a spectacular sunrise at Angkor Wat, but the sky straight over-head
remained clear for the entire two and half hour event.
The sun was surprisingly bright at Siem Reap, even when it was almost completely
When only a thin sliver of the sun remained, observation with the naked eye was impossible.
Only when totally eclipsed could it be viewed directly.
And no-one ever saw the moon - except for its silouhette and unilluminated dark side
as it began to eat into the sun to eventually obscure it.
The two bodies "touched" for the first time at 9:27:35am and lost contact
Those who watched were able to see various solar phenomenona including the outer
corona of the sun, which, as it neared total eclipse by the moon, threw off rays
of sunlight distorted by the solar magnetic field.
At the beginning and end of the eclipse were diamond rings and Bailey's beads - caused
by parts of the sun peeking between mountains of the cratered moon.
There were also solar primences, orange flares - tonguelike clouds of flaming gas
rising from the sun's surface - seen around the periphery of the moon.
Though an average of 24 solar eclipses can be seen every decade somewhere on earth
(between two and five each year), most occur over ocean or remote inaccessible areas.