Sky-watchers celebrate as total solar eclipse sweeps across the US

  • Video report by ITV News Science correspondent Alok Jha

A total solar eclipse has been sighted in the US as millions stopped to watch the rare natural phenomenon.

Tourists travelled across the world to see the skies darken to black across a swathe of north America this afternoon.

There was jubilation among watchers as total eclipse arrived in the western US state of Oregon at just after 10am local time (6pm British Summer Time).

The path of shadow then raced across a 70-mile wide swathe over central states before reaching the other side of the country in South Carolina at around 2.45pm EDT (7.45pm BST).

Eclipses are caused when the moon passes in front of the sun, temporarily blocking its light to the earth.

Britain was not in the path of a full blackout but did witness a partial eclipse.

Sky-watchers in Oregon watched as the moon's shadow rushed across the ground towards them and a black outline gradually obliterated the sun.

The period of total eclipse lasted for around two minutes.

People using binoculars also had the chance to see the red glow of the sun's near atmosphere and solar flares rising off its surface, which are normally invisible in bright sunlight.

The moon will pass in front of the sun, temporarily blocking its light. Credit: AFPTV

It was America's first coast-to-coast total solar eclipse in 99 years, and was expected to be the most observed and photographed in history.

That is largely due to the fact that it will cover a well-populated area that is easy to reach for travellers hoping to catch a sighting of the phenomenon.

Up to five solar eclipses take place each year - but many are over the seas or in deeply remote areas of the globe.

Some people travelled across the world to witness the total eclipse. Credit: AP

Scientists at NASA are spending millions on research, including sending up high-altitude balloons to record the eclipse from the "edge of space".

Members of the public have also been asked to help by sending data including the affect on animals.

"We expect a boatload of science from this one," said Jay Pasachoff, a Williams College astronomer who has traveled to 65 eclipses of all kinds.

NASA Astronaut Jack Fischer posted an image from the international space station as they prepared for the eclipse.

The UK was only set to see a partial eclipse, because it is not directly underneath the path of the moon's orbit.

Watchers could see a "bite" taken out the sun - but forecasters warn that cloud and mist were expected to spoil the spectacle for many.