The Ancients, not understanding astronomy very well, assigned spiritual and all manner of metaphysical meaning to solar eclipses. The Moderns, with at least some understanding of what things go around other things, choose to observe it in awe and celebrate what a cool thing it is when the world goes a bit kooky.

The August 1999 eclipse, or Éclipse totale de Soleil du 11 août 1999 as it was known to the French, could be magnificently observed from La Bande de Totalité sweeping through the North of France and providing a great excuse for a holiday. There were other places that were good (parts of the UK, Eastern Europe, Turkey). I spent the week surrounding this eclipse houseboating to and from eclipse-central with a group of like-minded scientists. The onset of the eclipse was very strange indeed. As the zone of darkness approaches the weather changes quite dramatically. The atmosphere in the direction of the approach is cooled significantly and this causes strange winds and clouds. The birds go nutty. The humans just party in awe. The craziness passes overhead and it gets very dark indeed. The Sun's corona, normally indiscernible from the intense brightness, dances around the moon as it moves in to obscure. It is very pretty. Then as the zone moves away it all happens in reverse and life returns to normal.

It is very spooky.