21 July : Millions of stargazers across India waited with bated breath hoping heavy cloud and rain will not play spoilsport when the longest total solar eclipse of the 21st century –an event described as a once-in-a-life time opportunity–can be seen on Wednesday.
Excited scientists and researchers including from abroad prepared to conduct experiments in several institutions when the solar eclipse races across the country.
The celestial spectacle which, due to its trajectory over China and India, could end up being the most watched eclipse in history and will be of three to six-minute durations in the cities where the shadow of the eclipse passes.
Solar eclipse will be visible in 13 states in India in totality. However, in Delhi only 85 per cent of the eclipse will be seen.
It will begin with the sunrise in the western part and travel to eastern part of India, cross to Myanmar (Burma) and then cover small islands of Japan and China.
The eclipse will be seen from 0528 hrs to 0740 hrs and will last nearly for four minutes– from 0626 hrs to 0630 hrs in India.
Totality of the eclipse will be of six minutes and 39 seconds.
”It is a lifetime opportunity not to be missed. It is a rare chance as the next total solar eclipse will occur over the country on March 20 in 2034 and that too for a very short duration. Although there is an eclipse scheduled to occur on January 15 in 2010, it will be an annular solar eclipse,” said National Science Centre Director Shivaprasad Khened.
”Special arrangements have been made at NSC office near Pragati Maidan to view the eclipse safely. In Delhi it will be a partial solar eclipse with 88 per cent totality.
Astro-tourists throng Aryabhata’s “TAREGNA” to view eclipse
The epicentre of activities will be in Taregna, 30 kms south of Patna, which has been adjudged as the best spot to view the eclipse and thousands of tourists have flocked to this non-descript township to experience the phenomenon.
Taregana, a sleepy hamlet in Bihar has suddenly turned into a hub of astronomers and skywatchers, who assembled here to witness the 21st century’s only ‘Total Solar Eclipse’.
Taregana suddenly geared up giving a festive look to the area as scientists from and outside the country were camping here with their instruments to study the celestial phenomenon at the soil of Aryabhatt, the ancient astronomer who lived here and worked in his laboratory, before departing to Ujjain.
The duration of the eclipse in Taregna will be 3 minutes 48 seconds.
However, the maximum duration of the eclipse would be six minutes 38 seconds, as visible from the Pacific Ocean.
Taregna was visited by ancient astronomer Aryabhatta (476-550 AD) who set up a camp to study movement of stars in the fifth century. It is said Aryabhatt used to study about the stars sitting in his ‘Vedhshala’ and while moving all around the area and people used to watch him busy in Ganna of Tara (counting and analysis of stars), which is the reason why the village was named as Taregana.
Eclipse will be first seen in Surat
The eclipse will be first seen in Surat at sunrise in South Gujarat where rains have been forecast. Weathermen have also forecast cloudy skies in several parts of the country.
Gujarat Tourism ministry, along with ISRO is making arrangements for viewing the event in Surat.
Surat expects a surge of tourists to witness the event, where local people have been roped in to provide lodging facilities.
The Indian cities through which the shadow of total eclipse passes are Surat, Ujjain, Indore, Bhopal, Sagar, Jabalpur, Varanasi, Allahabad, Gaya, Patna, Bhagalpur, Jalpaigudi, Guwahati and Dibrugarh.
The eclipse will be also visible in New Delhi but it will not be total.
A solar eclipse occurs when the moon is caught between the sun and the earth while each of them moves along their fixed orbits.
Total solar eclipse likely in four places of Assam
The TSE will be visible in four places in Assam with Dibrugarh witnessing the the total phase for three minutes and 38 seconds.
Regional Meterological Centre’s Assistant Meteorologist R K Goswami said in Guwahati on Tuesday that besides Dibrugarh, the eclipse would be visible totally at Guwahati, Sibsagar and Silchar.
In Dibrugarh, the eclipse would begin at 5.31 am and its greatest phase would be observed at 6.32 am while the eclipse would end at 7.41 am.
In Guwahati, the eclipse would begin at 5.30 am with its greatest phase at 6.29 a.m and the eclipse would end at 7.36 am.
In Sibsagar, the eclipse begins at 5.31 am with its greatest phase observed at 6.32 am and the eclipse would end at 7.40 am.
In Silchar, the eclipse would begin at 5.30 a.m with its greatest phase likely to be observed at 6.29 a.m and the eclipse would end at 7.37 a.m.
The Guwahati Planetarium and Pragjyotish Astronomers’ Association have set up public observation centres at Dibrugarh University, Tezpur University, Goreswar Higher Secondary School near Guwahati and several other parts of the state.
Skywatchers pray for fair weather to witness Solar eclipse in West Bengal
In West Bengal, the skygazers are praying for fair weather as monsoon clouds overcast the sky with prediction of rains in the next 24 hours in Gangetic and sub-Himalayan Bengal.
Professionals and amateurs are pouring in groups in Siliguri, Jalpaiguri, Cooch Behar, Malda, Raiganj, Balurghat, Darjeeling and Gangtok being in the total shadow zone.
The TSE could be viewed from these places between 0530 and 0733 hrs when shadow over the sun ends in this part of the country, said Sky Watchers Associations of North Bengal (SWAN) general secretary Debashis Sarkar.
As the eclipse is expected to start at 05:30:26 on Siliguri sky, the first diamond ring could be viewed at 0626:33 hrs and partial totality at 0626:13 hrs, mid eclipse at 0628:26, second diamond ring at 0630:19 hrs and the end at about 0733:11 hrs.
North Bengal comes at a vantage point within the totality path of this eclipse that can have all the phases – partial phase, diamond ring, corona and again diamond ring and partial phase.
Siliguri was in the TSE path on 4th June1788, and the next would be on 14th May 2114.
The SWAN has planned to organise an Indo-Bangladesh joint sky watching event on Tuesday night under the global initiative of the ‘Astronomers Without Borders’.
The Bangladesh Astronomical Society and SWAN would take part in the sky watching event at Indo-Bangla border zero line with BSF and BDR present at respective sides.
Precautions for sky watchers
Mr Sarkar has also warning for sky watchers as contrary to common belief, items like used X-Ray plates, smoked glass plates, CD, magnetic disc taken out of floppy or water bath reflecting sunray are not safe.
Instead, standard solar filters sheets, two layers of fully exposed and developed plus X black and white film, welder glass are safe as certified by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration of America (NASA), said an Eclipse Bulletin.
The filters are to be used during the partial phases before the first diamond ring formation and after the second diamond ring formation.
Viewing the diamond ring, lasting for a few seconds before and after corona phase, and the corona phase with naked eye are absolutely safe, added Sarkar.
Besides these, indirect viewing by reflecting the solar image on wall by a small one cm diameter round mirror, pin hole camera, telescope projection or binocular projection on a screen are also safe, he informed.
As India gets TSE for the first time in this century and not before 2114, the country is going to witness this exceptionally long duration eclipse from a narrow patch.
Cities like Surat, Varanasi and Patna also would be in the totality path, but Kolkata would get only the partial phase.