Century’s longest solar eclipse in India

Last Updated: Wednesday, July 22, 2009 - 19:14

New Delhi: Darkness descended soon after dawn across large swathes of land along a narrow path stretching from Gujarat to Arunachal Pradesh as skywatchers experienced the longest total solar eclipse of the century Wednesday morning.

The dark shadow of the moon -- the conical shaped umbra
-- made its landfall in Gujarat at 6:30 am and raced across
the country within a span of a few minutes spreading darkness
in the path of totality.

At many places a thick cloud cover dampened the spirits
of skywatchers who had gathered to watch the celestial
spectacle.

With the sun blanked out for six minutes and 39 seconds,
this was the longest total solar eclipse to occur in the 21st
century, and will not be surpassed in duration until June 13,
2132.

In Taregna in Bihar, touted as the best place to watch
the eclipse, thousands of astro-enthusiasts were disappointed
as clouds refused them a glimpse of the completely eclipsed
sun.

However, in Taregna, and most parts of northeast where,
clouds obscured the view of the sun, skywatchers were able to
experience the eclipse as daybreak turned to night for a few
minutes.

In Katni in Madhya Pradesh, stargazers enjoyed every
moment of the celestial spectacle from atop the Circuit House
Hills for a full three minutes from 6:22 am.

The group in Katni was awestruck as they saw the diamond
ring phenomenon for a few seconds just before the sun was
completely covered by the lunar shadow.

Some amateur astronomers were able to spot a few bright
stars which became visible in the momentary darkness as the
sun was completely covered giving them a magnificent view of
the Corona.

In Delhi, clouds played hide-and-seek but still
astro-enthusiasts gathered at several places got a glimpse of
the sun. Eighty-three per cent of the sun dial was obscured by
the moon. he crescent sun smiled upon the capital when the
eclipse reached its maximum of 83 per cent at 6:26 am.

Lakhs of pilgrims took a dip in the sacred pond in
Kurukshetra, in the Ganga at Varansi, Hooghly in Kolkata and
Brahmaputra in Guwahati during the solar eclipse.

Scientists had chartered planes to carry out experiments
and film the eclipse from above the clouds. A few well-heeled
persons took to the skies in special flights to chase the
lunar shadow and view the eclipse.

The path of totality passed over Bhavnagar, Surat,
Ujjain, Indore, Bhopal, Sagar, Jabalpur, Varanasi, Allahabad,
Gaya, Patna, Bhagalpur, Jalpaigudi, Guwahati, Dibrugarh and
Itanagar.

In the ancient city of Varansi, scientists from the
Bangalore-based Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA) could
observe the eclipse in totality.

"As the day started there was an apprehension that
eclipse may not be visible but as the sun rose the celestial
phenomena was quite clearly visible," R C Kapoor, a senior
official of the IIA said.

The solar eclipse was seen in totality for a duration
of three minutes and 10 seconds, Kapoor said.

Cloudy weather played a spoil sport in most parts of
Gujarat dampening the spirits of the people waiting to watch
the solar eclipse this morning.

In Surat, large number of people had gathered at the
airport to witness the solar eclipse.

The sun rose at 06:05 hours and soon after sun light there
was complete darkness at 06:21 hours when sun was completely
covered by the moon shadow.

Though the total solar eclipse was not visible due to
heavy clouds, the city was in complete darkness for about
three minutes of the total eclipse.

Kolkata witnessed 91 per cent of the total solar eclipse
despite cloudy skies.

The sun looked like a crescent as the moon`s shadow
passed between the sun and the earth for a few minutes from
6:20 am.

Incessant rains proved to be a dampener with the people
unable to watch the total solar eclipse in Sikkim.

The next annular solar eclipse will occur on January 15,
2010, while next total solar eclipse will occur on July 11,
2010.

An average of 230 eclipses take place in a century and
the previous longest duration for a total solar eclipse was
registered in 1955, when it occurred for 7 minutes and 31
seconds, Director of the Indian Institute of Astrophysics
(IIA), Professor Siraj Hasan said.

Pilgrims take holy dip

Nearly 15 lakh pilgrims from various parts of the country took a dip in the
sacred pond in Kurukshetra, Haryana early this morning during the solar eclipse.

The pilgrims made a beeline for the holy sarovars here
since last night amid tight security arrangements.

The Light and Sound show at Jyotisar, Sri Krishna
Museum and Panorma Science Centres here also remained open
throughout the night for the convenience of the tourists.

Clouds, rains `eclipse` celestial treat for Mumbaikars

Mumbai: Enthusiastic sky gazers waiting to
watch the partial solar eclipse here this morning left
disappointed as thick clouds and heavy rains played
spoilsport.

Elaborate arrangements were made at Nehru Science Centre
(NSC) and Nehru Planetarium, where over 300 people assembled
from far off places to witness the eclipse, the longest in the
21st century.

They were upset that they could not watch the rare
celestial treat due to weather conditions, NSC Director Anil
Manekar told.

"Anticipating cloudy weather, we had made arrangements
through internet connections and televisions to watch the
event live from eastern parts of the country," he said.

Skywatchers at NSC`s other centres in Valsad near Surat,
Bhopal and Nagpur also witnessed only clouds and rains, he
said.

However, observers at Valsad experienced sudden darkness
between 6.15 am and 6.30 am, according to the reports received
here, Manekar said.

Meanwhile, scientists from Indian Institute of
Geomagnetism (IIG), who had set up experiments in the path of
eclipse in India, could observe some changes in the magnetic
fields and electrical conductivity.

Bureau Report



First Published: Wednesday, July 22, 2009 - 19:14

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