Clouds eclipse the spectacle in sky

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ECLIPSE RUSH: People gather in large numbers to view the solar eclipse at Taregna near Patna on Wednesday.
ECLIPSE RUSH: People gather in large numbers to view the solar eclipse at Taregna near Patna on Wednesday.

P. Sunderarajan

However, some consolation for sky-watchers at Taregna and other places

NEW DELHI: What was dreaded happened on Wednesday morning. Clouds spoiled the day for sky-gazers who were eager to witness the rare celestial spectacle — the longest total solar eclipse of the century. The eclipse raced across the country in a few minutes along a narrow path stretching from Gujarat to Arunachal Pradesh.

A sense of disappointment was felt by the thousands of enthusiasts who had gathered at Taregna in Bihar, which had been touted as one of the best places on earth to watch the event, as a thick blanket of clouds did not part way even for a few seconds.

However, there was some consolation for the sky watchers at Taregna and other places, including Mumbai, Delhi, and Bangalore, where clouds obscured the view of the sun, as they experienced an eerie moment when dawn turned into night for a few minutes as the moon completely eclipsed the sun.

The eclipse was, however, not a total flop. It was seen in all its glory in several places, including the holy town of Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh and Katni in M.P.

A group of Indian astronomers, who had travelled to Ajni in China’s eastern province of Zhejiang, were among those who were fortunate to witness the full solar blackout. The team from the Indian Institute of Astrophysics saw the eclipse from an observatory set up by the Solar Eclipse Working Group of the International Astronomical Union.

A group of astronomy enthusiasts had a close encounter with the eclipse as they cruised over the clouds at a height of 41,000 ft aboard a chartered aircraft. The flight took off at 4.57 a.m. from Delhi and returned at 8.10 a.m. after cruising through the middle of the total eclipse shadow at 6.26 a.m. for about four minutes, above Gaya in Bihar.

A group of four scientists, accompanied by a six-member crew from Doordarshan, a team of Indian Air Force personnel and a group from the Science and Technology Ministry’s institution for science popularisation, ‘Vigyan Prasar’, also took to the sky in a Mirage 2000 fighter jet and an AN-32 medium lift transport aircraft to conduct scientific experiments, particularly on the corona of the sun, and to videograph the event from close quarters. As the aircraft reached an altitude of 25,000 ft, its rear ramp was opened to enable the scientists to carry out their experiments.

By itself, a total solar eclipse is not a rare phenomenon. It keeps happening every now and then. But most people do not get an opportunity to witness it even once in their lifetime as, on an average, it may occur at a particular place on earth only once in about 360 years.Wednesday’s eclipse was different in that its path of totality passed through a large number of cities and densely populated regions.

It also happens to be the longest one of the century, with the totality lasting for a maximum of 6 minutes and 39 seconds along its path, just short of the maximum possible duration of seven and a half minutes.

The next eclipse with a duration comparable to Wednesday’s will occur only in 2132, or 123 years from now.

Also see

  • Tracking the eclipse -- Graphic
  • Darkness at dawn as solar eclipse sweeps across Asia -- Image

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