Tourists flock to Indonesia to see rare total solar eclipse

Reuters

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People test filters for watching a solar eclipse near the Ampera Bridge on the Musi River the day before thousands of people are expected to gather to witness the event in Palembang, South Sumatra province, Indonesia March 8, 2016. Photo: Reuters/Darren Whiteside People test filters for watching a solar eclipse near the Ampera Bridge on the Musi River the day before thousands of people are expected to gather to witness the event in Palembang, South Sumatra province, Indonesia March 8, 2016. Photo: Reuters/Darren Whiteside
Thousands of astronomy enthusiasts are flocking to Indonesia this week to catch a rare event - the country's first total solar eclipse in nearly 33 years.
The eclipse will be visible in parts of Australia and Southeast Asia, but only some parts of Indonesia will get to see the sun totally eclipsed by the moon early on Wednesday.
The phenomenon has brought tourists flooding into Southeast Asia's biggest economy, with events such as music festivals and night markets organized around it.
"We accommodated tourists as far as our capacity allowed," said Muhaimin Ramza, manager of the Aston Hotel, one of several hotels that are booked out in the city of Palembang on Indonesia's western island of Sumatra.
Despite having tourist potential beyond the popular resort island of Bali, the vast archipelago struggles with poor connectivity and infrastructure.
Nearly 10 million tourists visited Indonesia last year and the government hopes to double that number by 2019. But January arrivals of foreign tourists were up only about 2 percent over last year.
A solar eclipse happens when the moon casts a shadow on the earth as it passes between the earth and the sun. A partial solar eclipse, more frequent than total eclipses, is when the earth passes within the penumbra of the moon.
The last total solar eclipse, in March 2015, was only visible from near the North Pole.
Indonesia last experienced a total eclipse in 1983 and will have to wait another 33 years for the next, the country's meteorological agency says.

A staff of the Indonesian Agency for Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics (BMKG) prepares a lens to record a solar eclipse at the beach of Ternate Island, Indonesia, March 8, 2016. Photo: Reuters/Beawiharta

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