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The 1998 Total Solar Eclipse, Feb 26

Carnival revelers, island-hopping astronomers and star-chasing cruise liners descended on the Caribbean on Thursday to watch the moon "swallow" the sun. It was the last total solar eclipse visible in the Western Hemisphere this millennium. Partying to themes such as "voyage to totality," thousands of cruise ship passengers sailed off the Dutch islands of Aruba and Curaçao, where a total eclipse of the sun began about 2:12 p.m. AST (1:11 p.m. EST/1812 GMT) Thursday. The moon blocked all but the sun's corona -- its flaring outer envelope -- and cast a shadow onto Earth that caused momentary deep twilight. Dozens of amateur and professional astronomers converged at a dusty, windswept point in northwest Curaçao, setting up equipment and hoping a smattering of clouds would clear. "We're here to see what the animals do. Are the birds and the iguanas going to sleep? We want to see what happens," explained Oveida Palacio, 35, who was setting up an eclipse picnic at the site with her family from Curacao. While the total eclipse was visible only in a narrow strip of the tropics, a partial eclipse was visible across much of North and South America. Total solar eclipses are not rare -- they occur about every 18 months -- but the path often falls on a remote area, making traveling to view them difficult and expensive. Scientific interest was especially intense this time around, because the path of totality was so accessible.