The Aquamarine is no ordinary vessel. It is India’s first eclipse cruise, which will sail to Male in the Maldives on January 13 to chase the ‘Ring of Fire’, or the millennium’s longest annular solar eclipse. The eclipse will be seen for the longest time in the Indian Ocean nation on January 15.

A science communication organisation SPACE (Science Popularisation Association of Communicators and Educators) has tied up with Louis Cruises India to run the luxury vessel from Kochi to Maldives carrying eclipse chasers looking to see the ‘Ring of Fire’ when the Sun’s disc will be covered by the Moon.

The cruise will start at 3 p.m. on January 13 and reach Male at 5 p.m. on January 14. People interested in getting on board the cruise will have to shell out something between Rs.17,000 to Rs.50,000 for the four-day three-night trip.

Four astronomers along with three telescopes, besides a number of binoculars with solar filters will be on hand aboard the vessel to facilitate eclipse viewing.

“On January 15, guests on the eclipse cruise will be in the Maldives where the ‘Ring of Fire’ will be visible for 10 minutes 46 seconds. Male is along the centre annular eclipse line, and will offer an optimal view of the eclipse as the obscuration of the Sun there will be the maximum of about 93 percent,” Sachin Bhamba, chief managing director SPACE, told IANS.

During the cruise, a number of ‘star parties’ will be organised at night, offering guided observations of constellations and deep sky objects and showing the navigational tricks of ancient mariners.

“An eclipse watch will be organised on January 15, to show passengers safe ways to view and photograph the eclipse. The cruise will be back in Kochi on January 16,” he said.

Annular solar eclipse occurs when the Sun and the Moon are exactly in line, but the apparent size of the Moon’s shadow is smaller than the visible disc of the Sun. The covered Sun, therefore, appears as a ‘Ring of Fire’, with its rays appearing spread out from the outline of the Moon.

The last time India saw this ‘Ring of Fire’ was on November 22, 1965, and it will not be witnessed again before June 21, 2020.

The maximum duration of the eclipse would be 11 minutes 08 seconds over the Indian Ocean, thus making it the longest annular eclipse of the millennium.

According to Bhamba, this innovative vessel will place SPACE in the unique position of having organised eclipse watches from earth, sky and now eater. Last July during the total solar eclipse, the organisation launched an eclipse flight in India as part of Grahan 2009.

“This feat of SPACE is dedicated to the heritage that scientific thinkers have created, and will herald in a new phase in astro tourism in the country,” he said.

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