A partial solar eclipse visible across western North America bored scientists but thrilled crowds that were able to see it despite clouds covering parts of the region.

"It's fabulous to know this is actually taking place. It's very fascinating," said Edie Lurie, an employee at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, where dozens used solar telescopes to watch the moon eclipse 37 percent of the sun at 10:50 a.m. PST Tuesday.As the moon passed between the Earth and sun to cause the partial eclipse, it was possible to see mountains on the edge of the moon silhouetted against the sun. Also visible were gas jets on the sun's surface and a giant group of sunspots that on Monday and Tuesday produced major solar flares - eruptions of heat and radiation - including the largest since 1984.

Clouds over downtown Salt Lake City dashed Hansen Planetarium's plans to set up telescopes to watch the moon block 36 percent of the sun at 11:10 a.m. MST.

"It's a bummer, but that's the way it goes," planetarium spokesman Patrick Wiggins said.

The eclipse was visible to at least some extent west of a diagonal line stretching roughly from Mazatlan, Mexico, northeast to Dallas and Chicago. Views were best farther west and north.

In sunny Los Angeles, 600 schoolchildren and at least 400 other people watched the eclipse at Griffith Observatory through telescopes and other devices equipped with filters to prevent eye injury.

"There was a childlike delight with the wonder of nature," observatory Director Ed Krupp said.

Most astronomers were unimpressed, saying they were waiting for a total solar eclipse that will sweep across Hawaii, the Pacific Ocean, lower Baja California in Mexico, Central America, Colombia and Brazil on July 11, 1991.

"You can see a partial eclipse every three or four years," said Caltech astrophysicist Ken Libbrecht. "They're not that exciting. A total eclipse is exciting."