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From terrace, nightlong chase for century's darkest eclipse

Thursday June 16, 2011 02:45:04 PM, Antarik Anwesan, IANS

Moments before the total eclipse

(Photo: IANS)

New Delhi: They watched in astonishment as the night sky gobbled up the moon for about an hour. Telescopes trained, munching on snacks, a clutch of Indians, including many kids, witnessed the darkest lunar eclipse of a century that ended in the wee hours of Thursday and left them with memories of a lifetime.

The moon gazing was a feast in more ways than one - there was a plate full of food to break a myth that causes many Indians to avoid eating during an eclipse. A clutch of around 35 people -- an IANS reporter included -- were at the terrace of NGO SPACE Foundation's office in west Delhi's Janakpuri for the celestial spectacle.

"This is the first time I have come to watch an eclipse. I never thought it would turn out to be this exciting and so amazing thing to explore," Kashish Chawla, a first year college student, told IANS.

"I am planning to go to villages over the weekends and educate people about astronomy and myths associated with lunar eclipse," he added.

It was at 10.55 p.m. Wednesday that the excitement started to soar as the first phase of the eclipse began. It was to last till 3.32 a.m. Thursday.

The total eclipse though was from 12.55 a.m. to 2.30 a.m.

As Bollywood songs praising the beauty of the moon played in the background, watching in awe were many school and college students.

Before the sky captured all the attention, a satirical 'play' on breaking myths during an eclipse was screened by the organisers, the Science Popularisation Association of Communicators and Educators (SPACE).

"I had always heard that pregnant women should never watch the eclipse. The play helped break that belief - to some extent," said Satviki Dua, 26, a married woman.

As the sky wore an orange tint, and the moon looked lost in a cloud cover, the telescopes began zooming in to get a closer look of the late night wonder.

"We are photographing each phase of the moon and our live webcast has received over 10,000 viewers from across the world. The beauty of astronomy has a charm of its own that attracts young minds," Vikrant Narang, president of Eclipse Chasers Athenaeum, told IANS.

Then the total eclipse began.

"This is the rare phase. It is the longest, and is forecast to occur after 47 years," added Narang.

The enthusiasts looked confused and curious as they continued their efforts to relocate the moon through the telescope. Of course, during the total eclipse, the moon was not visible.

"We managed to get a glimpse of the eclipsed moon through the telescope, but what leaves you awestruck is when the moon reappears bigger and brighter," said Chawla.

The countdown to bid goodbye to the eclipse began at the crack of dawn.

"I will carry blissful and unforgettable memories for a lifetime. This is rare, totally magical," gasped 15-year-old Akriti Arora.




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