The Gulf Today,
16 Jan 2010
A solar eclipse that reduced the sun to a blazing ring surrounding a sombre disk plunged millions of people in Africa and
Asia into an eerie semi-darkness on Friday.
The spectacle, visible in a roughly 300-kilometre band running 12,900 kilometres across the globe, set a record for the longest annular eclipse that will remain unbeaten for more than a thousand years.
Hasan Ahmad Al Hariri, Chairman of Dubai Astronomy Group (DAG) told The Gulf Today that the momentous phenomenon of the solar eclipse with the longest duration won't be flashing its presence for another 1,000 years.
"The annular easily became visible to eclipse observers in the UAE, starting from Abu Dhabi and moving on to Al Ain, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Qaiwain, Fujairah and Ras Al Khaimah," he added.
Al Hariri pointed out that such a long solar eclipse won't happen again until Dec.23 in 3043. The name annular means the outside of the sun. A normal eclipse usually does not last beyond five minutes. So, eleven minutes duration is a rare happening.
An annular eclipse occurs when the Moon passes directly in front of the Sun but does not completely obscure it, thus leaving a ring -- an annulus -- of sunlight flaring around the lunar disk.
The Moon's shadow first struck the southwestern tip of
Chad and western Central African Republic at 0514 GMT (, UAE) and then reached Uganda, Kenya, and Somalia before racing across India, Bangladesh, Myanmar and . China
Local media in the affected areas issued warnings about the dangers of looking directly at the sun, but fascinated onlookers thronged streets to witness the celestial phenomenon.
"It's getting interesting.
Birds are singing.
It's actually getting cold here," said John Saitega, a 34-year-old father of six in Olte Tefi, 50 kilometres (30 miles) south of
, where the eclipse was visible from the southern-most tip, astronomers and curious spectators watched in awe, using sunglasses and even ultra-dark welding masks as day turned into darkness. India
There were cheers and applause in the city of
when clouds cleared just in time to show the Moon glide into position to cover about 85 per cent of the Sun. Bangalore
Veteran eclipse chaser Daniel Fischer from German astronomy magazine Interstellarum picked a vantage spot on a cliff in Varkala, 62 kilometres north of the city of
in the Indian state of Kerala. Thiruvananthapuram
My first eclipse was
in 1983," said Fischer, who has witnessed 23 eclipses in total. Indonesia
The Bangalore-based Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) launched three small rockets on Thursday and another five on Friday to study the effects of the event on the atmosphere.
"We will compare the data obtained on normal days with data during and immediately after the eclipse to study the difference," project director P.Ratnakar Rao said from Thiruvananthapuram.
The eclipse, which was followed live on cable television in
India and China, temporarily put a halt to the world's biggest religious gathering in northern . India
Residents in the Ugandan capital
got a good view, although some were afraid of the intensity of the light, with many sharing dark glasses to gaze up at the sky. Kampala
"Can't it burn someone? You can't even look direct because I'm fearing for my eyes. I'm fearing it can burn me," said Angela Namukwaya, a shopkeeper in a
The maximum duration of "annularity" -- the time the moon is in front of the sun -- was 11 minutes, eight seconds at 07.06 GMT (11.06am, UAE), making it "the longest annular eclipse of the 3rd Millennium," according to Nasa.
December 23, 3043 will this record be beaten.
China's capital, Beijing, a partial eclipse made a crescent of the setting orange sun before the lunar shadow expired over the peninsula at 0859 GMT. Shandong
The weather conditions are pretty good.
It's really rather magnificent," said one male Beijing high school student, one of about 40 observing the eclipse from Coal Hill, overlooking the Forbidden City.