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Total eclipse live on the Net

Your computer screen could provide a glimpse of Wednesday's total solar eclipse, if a scheduled Webcast of the event comes off as planned.

Your computer screen could provide a glimpse of Wednesday's total solar eclipse, if a scheduled Webcast of the event comes off as planned.

Johannesburg, South Africa-based children's education company Magical Science said it plans to send live pictures of the astronomical rarity over the Internet.

Magical Science subsidiary Magical Skies will cover the eclipse from Messina, South Africa, beginning at 9:15 p.m. PST on Dec. 3, charging $9.90 for viewers to watch the eclipse live. The company said it has attached a high-resolution digital camera to a Meade telescope fitted with a solar filter to capture images as the moon passes across the face of the sun.

Whether the Web will prove a stellar venue for such an event remains to be seen. Live Webcasts in the past have been hampered by technical glitches typically brought on by excess demand and spotty resolution. In addition, the event could be marred by weather conditions, with some clouds expected in some of the areas where the eclipse will be visible.

"We thought surely a lot of people would be doing this, but they're not," said Magical Skies technical director Kevin Crause, who added that the company has run two successful tests and that skies are expected to be clear at the telescope site during the eclipse.

Demand for the event has been slow, with only several hundred people signing up to view the video feed so far.

The total solar eclipse will cast a lunar shadow over a narrow corridor in the southern hemisphere, hitting Africa at the coastal town of Egito Praia in Angola at about four minutes before 10 p.m. PST on Tuesday. Heading east at more than 3,125 mph, it will traverse Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa before moving out to the Indian Ocean at Xai-Xai in Mozambique at 10:27 p.m. PST. The eclipse will end at sunset in Australia.

In addition to the lunar shadow, viewers are expected to be able to see as many as four planets and several stars in the umbral path.

The next total solar eclipse is not until Nov. 23, 2003.

Reuters contributed to this report.