for National Geographic News
There is nothing to fear from a total eclipse of the sun, a prominent seismologist recently explained to a nervous public in Turkey.
Turkey is one of the countries set to experience a total solar eclipse tomorrow, and many Turks had become worried that the eclipse could cause earthquakes. An eclipse in 1999 was followed by two quakes in northeastern Turkey, which killed some 20,000 people.
Fear of earthquakes is just one reaction evoked by tomorrow's celestial event.
People from Brazil to Mongolia are making preparations for the eclipse, ranging from doomsday predictions to travel arrangements.
Even scientists are susceptible to the sensation caused by an eclipse. Among them is Paul Doherty, astronomer with the Exploratorium science museum in San Francisco, California. He will lead a webcast of the event from an ancient amphitheater in Side, Turkey.
"I impress upon people that when the sun is replaced by blackness, their bodies will respond emotionally," said Doherty, a veteran eclipse-watcher.
A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon moves directly between the sun and the Earth. (See an interactive map of our solar system.)
The darkness allows brighter stars and planets to appear in the middle of the day.
At totality, when the entire sun is blocked, the shimmering white corona of the sun appears around the silhouette of the moon.
"I describe the amazing whitish corona extending out from the black region where the sun should be as a black-bodied spider stretching white legs across the sky," Doherty said.
As the Earth turns, the moon's shadow, or umbra, moves across the planet.
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