Century’s longest solar eclipse in India
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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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