CHENNAI: The longest solar eclipse of this century awaits astronomers on January 15. People at the southern tip of India — Kanyakumari, Rameswaram, Dhanushkodi, Sivaganga, Nagercoil, Tirunelveli, Nagapattinam, Thanjavur, Mayiladuthurai, Chidambaram, Karaikudi and Pudukottai — can see the sun as a ‘Ring of Fire.’

“The effect will occur during the maximum phase of the eclipse, when the moon will cover the sun’s disk. While these parts of India are lucky to observe the outer regions of the sun, the rest of the country will get to see just a partially eclipsed sun,” says P. Iyamperumal, Executive Director, Tamil Nadu Science and Technology Centre, Chennai.

According to him, the annular phase runs from 10.44 hours IST, when the eclipse begins in the Central African Republic to the end of the eclipse on the Chinese Yellow sea coast at 14.29 hours IST. The maximum eclipse is at 12. 36 hours IST, when the annular phase will last just over 11 minutes.

“The path of the eclipse will be about 328 km wide. It passes over the Maldives at 12.55 hours IST and the duration will be almost 11 minutes on the centre-line. The track next reaches India. The centre line just misses the mainland. It moves very close to Dhanushkodi. Skygazers along north-eastern Sri Lanka will have the best view, as the centre line clips the land there (Kankaesanthurai, Jaffna region). The path will be 323-km wide here and the eclipse will last over 10 minutes,” he said.

According to the Director at Chennai, 82.33 per cent of the diameter of the sun will be covered at the time of maximum eclipse. It would begin at 11.25 hours IST and end at 15.15 hours IST.

The Tamil Nadu Science and Technology Centre (TNSTC), in co-ordination with Vigyan Prasar, Department of Science and technology, Government of India, has planned to hold a workshop for students from January 14 to 16 at Kanyakumari. More than 750 students, from all over India, are expected to participate in this workshop and perform experiments.Elaborate arrangements have been made by the TNSTC officials for the public to watch the celestial phenomenon at Kanyakumari. Mr. Iyamperumal cautioned the public that it was unsafe to look at the sun directly.