In the summer of 1999 the media seemed to be occupied with mainly one massive spectacle which in Germany was called "SoFi99" (SOnnenFInsternis*)(television_darkness): a total solar eclipse would cover Europe on August 11th 1999. This "cosmic event of the century" didn't only concern mystics and astrologists but most of all TV producers and entrepreneurs in the field of tourism. Live-broadcasting was mandatory on all channels. The ZDF - one of Germany's state-owned public channels - dedicated a whole day to this. Several days and even weeks before the event there were special reports and leading articles on the subject. "Sun festivals" were organized in the southern part of Germany- one could buy T-Shirts and Coffee mugs bearing the black sun. Even the usually laid-back ARD - Germany's first state-owned public channel - broadcasted a special production, a so-called "focal point", right after the evening news. The last special "focal point" production covered Princess Diana's death.
Naturally, we don't feel the agitation and fear an event like that must have triggered in former times. Everything is under control now. Nowadays the solar eclipse is almost like a symbol for enlightenment, for triumph over superstition. Already in 1504 Columbus was able to render the original inhabitants of Jamaica cooperative by - in their eyes: magically - predicting a lunar eclipse. This illustrated the prominence of the occidental culture. "Tintin" as well wasn't only occupied with solving thievery and other crimes : In "Prisoners of the Sun" the detective in knickerbockers can escape getting burnt at the stake by an Inca tribe. He simply demands that the day of execution be the day of a solar eclipse.
"Many astronomical problems can be explored during the eclipse of the sun.This includes the size and the consistence of the corona of the sun and the diffraction of light waves that come close to the sun thanks to its gravitation (see relativity). Due to the high luminosity of the solar disc and the elucidation of the earth's atmosphere caused by the sun it is only possible to study the corona during a solar eclipse".