The Karnataka capital went into excitement mode on Friday as hundreds watched the moon eclipsing the sun, with clouds clearing the sky in time for maximum coverage at 1.23 p.m.

About 1,000 people, especially students who converged at the Jawaharlal Nehru Planetarium (JNP) to observe the celestial phenomenon, erupted in joy when the moon covered the sun almost 85 percent, with daylight diminishing by the minute.

“It was almost like dawn or dusk during the afternoon after an hour-long bright sunshine. I am lucky to watch the annular solar eclipse for the first time,” 16-year-old K. Savita told IANS.

Though the day began ominously with an overcast sky, the clouds played hide and seek with the enthusiastic watchers till the eclipse started over the city at 11.16 a.m.

“My prayers were heard by the sun god. As clouds cleared in time, I could observe the path of the eclipse in clear sky from 11.30 a.m.,” said D. Chandrika, a post-graduate student of astro-physics at Bangalore University.

“The bright daylight started fading and it seemed like evening when the moon almost covered the sun at around 13.25 p.m.,” she added.

The planetarium set up five telescopes in the campus to project the image of the sun on a small screen attached to the instrument.

“We also provided three welding glasses (number 14) for viewing the millennium’s annular solar eclipse through them as watching the event directly is harmful,” JNP director B.S. Shylaja told IANS.

With the fervour of the first solar eclipse of the decade building up since daybreak, hundreds of school and college students trooped into the planetarium, many sporting caps and goggles.

“We also arranged a sun spotter where its image was projected on a small screen to watch the moon advancing gradually and covering it up to 85 percent,” Shylaja said.

The crowds also had the privilege of watching a 10-minute movie screened in the planetarium theatre continuously since 11 a.m. to explain the phenomena of solar and lunar eclipses.

“We displayed a model to explain how eclipses occur and a simulation display to demonstrate how the annular phase appears in the annular belt,” Shylaja noted.

The planetarium’s faculty also explained to the crowds in English and Kannada the magnitude of the annular solar eclipse as the ratio between the apparent angular diameters of the moon and that of the sun during the eclipse.

“In a partial solar eclipse, the magnitude of the eclipse is the fraction of the sun’s diameter occulted by the moon at the time of maximum eclipse,” Shylaja explained.

Roads deserted

It was a pleasure driving on the usually choked Bangalore roads on Friday, thanks to a rare annular solar eclipse.

Movement of vehicles and people began thinning as the clock struck 11.

The moon started eclipsing the sun 16 minutes past 11 and for the next four hours roads were deserted.

In many areas, shops, particularly eateries, shut doors for almost an hour before the eclipse began. They reopened around 4 p.m. as vehicular and people movement picked up.