MIAMI – Despite intermittent rain, skywatchers here got a peek of what looked like the moon taking a bite out of the sun — a phenomenon that will not be visible again in the continental United States (search) for seven years.
The partial solar eclipse was visible Friday across a corridor extending from the South Pacific to the Americas. Nearly half of the sun's diameter covered over at 6:20 p.m., although rain clouds sporadically obstructed the view in south Florida.
Spectators were offered protective glasses to gaze toward the eclipse on the roof of the Museum of Science and Planetarium (search) observatory, but there were only a few takers because of the rain.
"What's nice about this one is the sun has more color because it's close to the horizon," said Jack Horkheimer, host of an astronomy series on public television.
Solar eclipses occur when the Earth, moon and sun line up and the moon casts a shadow over Earth. Total eclipses cast the Earth into darkness; this was only partial.
Barring cloud cover, people south of a line extending from Southern California to central New Jersey should have been able to see the partial eclipse.
In Central America and the northern portion of South America, skywatchers saw the sun reduced to a narrow ring of fire at the height of the phenomenon.
In Colombia's capital, Bogota (search), hundreds of school children watched the dark shadow of the moon pass over the sun's lower half, but clouds obscured the view there as well.
"I want to become an astronomer after seeing that," said Ricardo Mendoza, a 15-year-old who said he couldn't concentrate all day because he was so excited. He'll have to wait until 2023 before the next solar eclipse can be viewed from Colombia.
William Cepeda, an astronomer with the National University (search) in Bogota, traveled to Cordoba, some 310 miles northwest of Bogota — an area within a very narrow path where viewers could see the moon's shadow reduce the sun to a dazzling ring of fire.
"The sun was about two-thirds obscured when suddenly it clouded over and began to rain," he said. "It was very disappointing. Still, the early stages were exceptional and we took some great pictures."
The next solar eclipse will be Oct. 3, visible from the Iberian Peninsula and across Africa. The next solar eclipse visible from the continental United States will not be until May 20, 2012.