15 Jan : The millennium’s longest celestial spectacle unfolded on Friday in a narrow strip in peninsular India with enthusiasts flocking sites to observe the annular solar eclipse.
The scientific phenomenon began at 11:17 AM at Dhanushkodi. People at Dhanushkodi, about 18 km from Rameshwaram, 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.
“The moon has started covering the sun and by 1:30 PM people will be able to see the ‘ring of fire’,” SPACE Director C B Devgun said.
In Kanyakumari, the eclipse was watched by a team of six scientists from Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA).
“The eclipse is half-way. The annularity will be at about 1:06 PM which will be for 10.8 minutes,” R C Kapoor, a scientist at IIA, said.
In Delhi, the eclipse began at 11:53 AM.
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.
Mamata, who came to the planetarium to watch the event, said “It is the first time I am seeing such an event”.
“The view of the eclipse was enthralling,” Shreyansh Gupta, a student, said.
58-year-old Nisha too was very upbeat about the whole cosmic event. “In 1980 I first saw the solar eclipse. However, things are different now”.
An amateur astronomer Mushir (14) described the whole event as great. “It is probably the first and last time I am seeing the eclipse. It feels great,” he said.
Sachin Bahmba, founder of NGO Science Popularisation Association of Communicators and Educators (SPACE), said, “We are encouraging people to eat food and drink water to bust all myths about the eclipse”.
ISRO to analyse data of solar eclipse
The Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) in Thiruvananthapuram, an unit of ISRO, has made elaborate arrangements including launch of sounding rockets to gather data for a comprehensive analysis of the annular solar eclipse, which would occur on 15th January.
The atmospheric-ionospheric parameters to be conducted in India would be one of the most comprehensive scientific campaigns ever attempted during a solar eclipse anywhere in the world, a VSSC release said on Wednesday.
As part of the campaign, nine sounding rockets would be launched before and during the eclipse from Thumba attached to the VSCC and Satish Dhawan Space Centre, also known as the Sriharikota Range (SHAR) to collect data on the event.
At 11.14 am on 15th January, the eclipse will pass close to Thumba with 91 percent obscuration of the Sun and its edges would touch Sriharikota with 85 percent obscuration.
The eclipse would be a unique one since it will take place during noontime, when the incoming solar radiation would be at its maximum, the VSSC release said.
It is also significant since the obscuration of the Sun during the eclipse would be exceptionally long, about 11 minutes and eight seconds, providing an opportunity to study, perhaps for the first time, the eclipse induced effects in the noontime equatorial region.
The interpretation of the space data would give new insights of the celestial phenomenon, it said.