IT was the amazing moment young and old in Bolton had been waiting for — the near total solar eclipse.

Schoolchildren across the borough were determined to witness the spectacular phenomena with young people coming into Sharples School as early as 7.30am in readiness for Bolton entering the twilight zone. And workers came out of their offices to glimpse what has been described as the best solar eclipse in years.

A solar eclipse takes place when the earth, moon and sun are aligned and the moon's shadow touches the earth's surface.

Telescopes were set up, special glasses were ready and children made their own pinholes cameras and there was excitement as young people gathered to witness when the moon crossed the face of the sun.

Schools also arranged for children to watch it as it unfolded live on monitors and television screens.

Fortunately cloud cover broke enough so they could follow the partial eclipse, which reached its peak at 9.32am covering 90 per cent of the sun.

Sharples School’s young astronomers who were outside waiting for a glimpse of the eclipse teamed up with a school in Spain to watch it happen there first.

Deputy headteacher Mukesh Singadia said:"I was fortunate to see it in 1999 and the whole street were out with their pinhole cameras and we set up to watch that. Now to share it with the children and see their excitement, it has really captured their imagination.”

Mr Singadia said: “I could not sleep the night before. It is quite eerie when it happens.

“The next time they see something of this magnitude will be in September, 23, 2090. The children have bee so excited, and are fortunate to witness this it so they can tell their children.”

Young astronomer Dylan Hankinson, aged 10, who attends The Oaks who was at Sharples School for the rare event said: “It was brilliant.

“I was stunned when I saw it, it is the best thing we have done in astronomy.”

Sharples School pupil Yasmin Lomas, aged 14, added: “It was amazing to see something like that. It was really exciting and brilliant to be part of it.

“You could feel the cold when it started. I took a photograph using the telescope and will share it on Facebook.”

Aftab Khan, aged 15, added: “I will never forget this, I will be telling my children!

“I feel so privileged that the school has given us this opportunity and the equipment to witness it.”

Headteacher Rachel Quesnel added: “We are thrilled that so many young people enjoyed it.

“They came in so early to get everything prepared.”

Every single child at Gaskell Primary School was issued with a pair of special glasses so they could watch the partial solar eclipse safely.

Emily Kirk, headteacher, said: “The children have been so excited about and so have the staff.

“When it started there was hush around the playground and then sounds of ‘wow’.

“This is a life experience for them and something they will remember.”

Sabah Khan, aged nine, added: “It was so bright and then dark. It was good seeing the moon in the day, because it does not normally happen.

“I was very excited when it happen because it is a new thing for all of use – I will remember this for ever.”

Abdullah Shaheen, aged six, added: “Seeing the eclipse was really exciting, it went dark and cold when it happened.

“I will be telling everybody about what I have seen.”

Bolton School in partnership with the Ogden Trust live cast the partial solar eclipse from the roof of the Turret Library.

One of the best vantage points was in South Gloucestershire, where amateur astronomer Ralph Wilkins described the "eerie" feeling as a chilly gloom descended and shadows sharpened.

Elsewhere there were reports of birds "going crazy" and flocking to trees, confused by the fading light.

Public Health England said that after the 1999 eclipse around 70 people reported loss of vision, half of them reporting issues within 48 hours due to looking at the sun. Despite the cloud, the eclipse was expected to have a significant impact on the National Grid with a predicted loss of 850 megawatts of solar power from the electricity supply network.