Today marks 24 years since thousands gathered across the county to watch a total eclipse.

Darkness rolled across Dorset as men, women and children gazed up at the sky. It wasn’t an alien invasion or apocalyptic event, but the solar eclipse of 1999.

Thick cloud threatened to obscure views of the astronomical event at 11.11am on August 11, but that didn’t stop hundreds of spectators from lining up at Bournemouth beach to see the spectacle of a lifetime.

Each person had their special viewing glasses, although these were not needed as the sun was barely visible.

However, the effects of the eclipse were still spectacular as an eerie darkness fell over sea and land.

The Needles lighthouse off the Isle of Wight shone red through the darkness and hundreds of camera flashes lit the cliffs as spectators attempted to capture the magical moment.

The air was already chill, yet people pulled coats and jumpers tightly around themselves as the temperatures plummeted rapidly.

Headlights were switched on in cars of those still going about their business, while shopfronts lit up the streets.

A break in the heavy cloud, albeit incredibly brief, meant many were able to see the moon slowly sweep in front of the sun.

After 72 years of waiting, the wonder was over in less than three minutes.