Thousands Head to Siberia To Catch Rare Solar Eclipse

Thousands of people are heading for Novosibirsk to observe a rare, total solar eclipse on Friday, when the sun will be fully obscured by the moon's shadow for about two minutes.

A partial solar eclipse will be visible in Moscow shortly after midday Friday.

All 87 hotels in Novosibirsk are fully booked by people eager to experience the astronomical phenomenon, RIA-Novosti reported.

Among the visitors, the Siberian city expects 13,000 to 15,000 "eclipse-chasers" -- travelers from Russia and abroad who strive to be present at every single eclipse and count how much time they spend in its shadow.

The total eclipse will last two minutes, 19 seconds, said Yevgeny Nagovitsin, deputy head of Pulkovskaya Observatory, the country's main astronomical institution.

In Moscow, the eclipse will start at 1:02 p.m. and finish at 3:15 p.m., Nagovitsin said. The eclipse will be at its fullest at 2:09 p.m., when 56 percent of sun will be obscured.

People should take care to protect their eyes if they want to look at the sun during any degree of the eclipse, Nagovitsyn said.

People are advised to use special viewing glasses, solar cameras or even a homemade solar reflector, instructions for which can be found on the Internet.

Novosibirsk's total eclipse will also be streamed live on the Internet on several sites, including www.rian.ru and www.altapress.ru/eclipse2008/. The total eclipse will start at 3:44 p.m. Moscow time.

Other countries will also see the eclipse, which will start in northern Canada and cross Greenland to Russia and then northern China before disappearing, Nagovitsin said.

The next total eclipse will happen in 2017 in North America. Russia will not see another eclipse until 2030.