January 15, 2010

Thousands Gathered To See Annular Eclipse

People in Africa and Asia gathered together Friday to view the shining ring during the annular eclipse.

According to NASA's website, the eclipse began in Africa by passing through Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Kenya and Somalia.  After its stop there it reached its peak when crossing over the Indian Ocean.

The path ended in Asia, where the eclipse could be seen in Maldives, southern India, parts of Sri Lanka, Myanmar and China.

Residents in Kenya's capital Nairobi were disappointed due to clouds blocking the partial solar eclipse.

"I woke up very early because I wanted to see the eclipse, but I have only been able to catch just a few seconds of it because the clouds kept blocking the view. If I weren't more observant, I would've missed it," Monica Kamau told the Associated Press (AP).

An annular eclipse is when the moon does not block the sun completely, leaving a blazing ring around the moon.

These eclipses are considered far less important to astronomers than total eclipses of the sun, which occur about 66 times a century and can only be viewed in the narrow band along its path.

Locals in Uganda refer to an eclipse as a war between the sun and moon.

"It is rare to see such an eclipse. I am excited to be seeing this one. It shows how powerful God is," Damalie Nakaja, a shopkeeper in Kampala, told AP.

NASA said on its website that Friday's eclipse was visible from a 190-mile path that passes through half the globe.

Veteran eclipse chaser Daniel Fischer, who picked a good spot in Varkala, told AFP, "I'm thrilled. My first eclipse was Indonesia in 1983." Fischer, from the German astronomy magazine Interstellarum has witnessed 23 eclipses in total.

In Dhanushkodi, a small town in southern India, hundreds gathered to see the phenomenon, which lasted about 10 minutes. 

In another southern Indian city known as Bangaldore, hundreds of people went to a planetarium to watch it.

"This is my first time viewing an eclipse through a pinhole camera at a planetarium and I'm very excited," 12-year-old Aniruddh Kaushik told AP.

Others in India were gripped by fear and refused to come outdoors while it happened.  Hindu mythology states an eclipse is caused by a dragon-demon swallowing the sun.  Another myth says the sun's rays during an eclipse can harm unborn children.

Thousands gathered in northern India's Haridwar town as devout Hindus dipped in the frigid waters of the sacred Ganges river to mark the eclipse.

In the capital of Maldives, hundreds of people watched the eclipse with special glasses in an open field as it reached its peak.

The last total eclipse took place on July 22, 2009, where it was visible to people in India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar, China and some Japanese islands.


Image Caption: Total solar eclipse as seen from the district of Kurigram in Bangladesh. It was taken by Lutfar Rahman Nirjhar. (Wikipedia)