Total Solar Eclipse

(NASA Photo)

Day turned to night Wednesday as the first total solar eclipse in three years swept across the Atlantic from Brazil to Mongolia, through Africa and the Mediterranean basin.

The moon began blocking out the sun in the morning in Brazil.

It came between the sun and the earth over Libya at 1014gmt on Wednesday and a corona, the usually invisible extended atmosphere of the sun, glowed around it.

The total solar eclipse lasted just a few minutes. Then, the path of greatest blockage moved on to Egypt and beyond.

NASA said Turkey would be the best spot to view the eclipse, and tens of thousands of tourists gathered along the Turkish Mediterranean coast.

When it reaches Mongolia, it will fade out with the sunset.

Total eclipses are rare because they require the tilted orbits of the sun, moon and earth to line up exactly so that the moon obscures the sun completely.

The next total eclipse will occur in 2008.

Health authorities warned spectators not to stare at the eclipse and one expert in Lebanon advised that the safest way to see it was to stay at home and watch live coverage on television.

The last such eclipse in November 2003 was best viewed from Antarctica, making it difficult for the world to see.