Rare solar eclipse plunges parts of Europe into darkness

The total solar eclipse at Svalbard, Norway, on March 20, 2015. (Photo by Olav Jon Nesvold/EPA)
The total solar eclipse at Svalbard, Norway, on March 20, 2015. A Partial Solar Eclipse is seen in Europe, northern and eastern Asia and northern and western Africa on March 20, 2015 with the eclipse starting at 07:41 UTC and ending at 11:50 UTC.

Millions of people were mesmerized by a rare sight Friday morning: a partial solar eclipse, as the moon passed between the Earth and the sun, casting an eerie shadow over Europe, northern Africa and northern Asia. 

Meanwhile, for those lucky few living on the Faroe Islands, northwest of Scotland, and the Svalbard Islands, east of Greenland, the sky was darkened by an even rarer event: a total solar eclipse, in which the moon fully blocks the light of the sun, plunging day into night for a few mind-blowing minutes.

[More: Solar eclipse 2015 as seen around the world]

While a total solar eclipse is visible somewhere on Earth approximately once every 18 months, the chance of actually seeing one is vanishingly rare. Most places on the planet only experience the cosmological event once every several hundred years.

Luckily, North American skywatchers won’t have to wait long. A spectacular total solar eclipse is set to cross the length of the contiguous United States on August 21, 2017 -- first darkening the skies over Oregon, then traveling slowly southeast toward South Carolina.

The total solar eclipse at Svalbard, Norway, on March 20, 2015. A Partial Solar Eclipse is seen in Europe, northern and eastern Asia and northern and western Africa on March 20, 2015 with the eclipse starting at 07:41 UTC and ending at 11:50 UTC.
Peoplewatch a solar eclipse in Berlin, March 20, 2015.
A person holds up a strip of exposed photographic film to observe a partial solar elcipse in Szczecin March 20, 2015.
Students wear protective glasses as they view a partial solar eclipse from St. Vincent's Catholic Primary School in Altrincham, northern England March 20, 2015.
The moon passes infront of the Earth's star marking the begining of a total eclipse, the only one this year, in Vigo, northwestern Spain on March 20, 2015.
A man uses protective goggles as he watches the solar eclipse at the museums island in Berlin, March 20, 2015.
Members of the Galloway Forest Astronomical Society prepare their equipment ahead of tomorrows solar eclipse on March 19, 2015 in Newton Stewart, Scotland.