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Friday, January 15, 2010 05:50:53 PM, & Agencies

Picture taken at Rameshwaram using an H-alpha filter and at the middle of the eclipse.

(Photo: Piyush Pande)

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Rameshwaram/Malegaon: As the shadow of the moon eclipsed the sun on Friday afternoon, leaving only a blazing ring of fire visible, scientists, eclipse chasers and spectators gathered in Rameshwaram cheered.


Thousands had assembled at the seaside pilgrimage spot to witness this rare celestial phenomenon — an annular eclipse of the sun for over 11 minutes.


The eclipse, which could be seen across parts of Africa and Asia, began in India around 11 a.m. in Kerala and was to end around 3:15 p.m. in Mizoram. The southern tips of Kerala and neighbouring Tamil Nadu offered the best views.


In an annular eclipse the sun and moon are directly in line with the viewing point on earth and the outer rim of the sun is visible around the moon’s smaller shadow.


Director of Nehru Planetarium Piyush Pande who is camping in Rameshwaram informed, "The sky was completely cloudy in the morning and then not a wisp of cloud an hour before the eclipse began. It remained clear for the entire duration of the eclipse and the vista of watching the Annular Solar Eclipse (ASE) is unexplainable."


People at Dhanushkodi, about 18 km from here, touted as the best location to watch the longest eclipse in a century, were excited as the moon began to cover the sun.


It is from places like Dhanushkodi, Kanyakumari, Varkala that people would be able to see the ring of fire as the moon tries to block the Solar disc leaving the edges flaring.


Picture taken at Rameshwaram using an H-alpha filter and at the beginning of annularity.

(Photo: Piyush Pande)


“I’ve seen many eclipses. But this is the first time I saw the golden ring of fire. It was perfect,” said Paresh Sanyal, who travelled some 2,260 kilometres from Kolkata to Dhanushkodi. Sanyal, a veteran of 15 eclipses, calls himself an ecliptomaniac.


ISRO fires nine rockets

Two of India’s rocket bases were in the path of the moon’s shadow, and the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) set off nine small sounding rockets before, during and after the eclipse to investigate its effects on the atmosphere.


The data collected would be used to study how the sudden cut-off of solar radiation affects the atmospheric structure and dynamics, an ISRO release said.


The eclipse occurred at noon when the sun was at its zenith and its radiation maximum. Combined with the fact that the eclipse was exceptionally long, it provided a unique opportunity to carry out studies, the release said.


Malegaon-ians elated

In Maharashtra where most of the part in the state witnessed more than 50% Solar Eclipse, the vista was enjoyed by everyone.


"Barely a month ago we had seen the Lunar Eclipse that coincided with the last day of the year. I also remember the Solar eclipse few months back. However, today's was spectacular beyond belief", said Ather Shazan, a student while speaking to in Malegaon.


Rationalists encourage eclipse-watchers

In Delhi, the eclipse began at 11:53 a.m.


Several skywatchers watched the celestial spectacle from Nehru Planetarium in New Delhi where special arrangements were made.


Projectors, telescopes and special solar view goggles were made available to the people who gathered to have a glimpse of the cosmic event.


Many people who had gathered at the planetarium were brimming with excitement as they watched the celestial show.


The Science Popularisation Association of Communicators and Educators (SPACE), a Delhi-based organisation, attempted to debunk the superstitions associated with the eclipse, by encouraging people to understand the celestial phenomenon.


“We are encouraging people to eat food and drink water to bust all myths about the eclipse,” Sachin Bahmba, founder of SPACE said.


“We did several experiments like recording temperature, humidity, wind speed and ambient light during the eclipse,” Bhamba, who himself is an astronomer, added.


Luxury vessel tracks eclipse

SPACE also tied up with a cruise ship company to follow the eclipse at sea. The luxury vessel travelled from the port town of Kochi in central Kerala to the Maldives Thursday, carrying over 800 tourists, eclipse chasers and scientists from SPACE with special equipment to view the ring of fire from the capital Male.


Kanyakumari, the country's southernmost tip, has turned out to be an 'eclipse destination', as thousands of people converged here to watch the celestial spectacle.


Rajendra Ratnoo, district collector of Kanyakumari said: “Television sets have been set up at the viewing centre near the Public Works Department guesthouse. A telescope has been connected to a plasma TV for people to see.”


He said around 750 students from 25 states have come to Kanyakumari to witness the celestial spectacle.


According to the police, around 150 security personnel have been deployed as they expect around 15,000 people to visit the viewing centre.


Seven telescopes have been set up in addition where facilities have been made to view the eclipse through pin hole and mirror projection.


The last time India saw this ‘Ring of Fire’ was November 22, 1965, and it will not be witnessed again before June 21, 2020. The next longest annular solar eclipse will be seen in 3043.










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