The millennium's longest celestial spectacle unfolded on Friday in a narrow strip in peninsular India with enthusiasts flocking sites to observe the annular solar eclipse. The scientific phenomenon began at 11:17 AM at Dhanushkodi, southern India.
People at Dhanushkodi, about 18 km from Rameshwaram, touted as the best location to watch the longest eclipse in a century, were excited as the moon began to cover the sun. It is from places like Dhanushkodi, Kanyakumari, Varkala that people saw the ring of fire as the moon tried to block the Solar disc leaving the edges flaring.
In Kanyakumari, the eclipse was watched by a team of six scientists from Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA).
A team of astronomers photographed the millennium's longest annular solar eclipse using three telescopes from the western coastal town of Varkala in Kerala, located on the edge of the eclipse path.
As the moon started covering the sun, astronomers tried to capture the special phenomenon during the eclipse nicknamed 'Baily's Beads' from this town.
The eclipse was studied from Varkala and Mila Mitra, Scientific Officer of Space Scientific Popularisation Association of Communicators and Educators (SPACE) told PTI.
A telescope with very high focal length zoomed in on the eclipse during the phenomenon, she said, adding,
Varkala is on the edge of the eclipse region and the best view of the 'Baily's beads' would be from Varkala.
The SPACE team is at the Varkala beach where many local people gathered to watch the eclipse.
A selected team of school principals, teachers and 10 students from schools in New Delhi, Shimla and Hyderabad conducted experiments in Varkala during the Solar Eclipse. The students planned to measure the temperature, humidity, ambience and light changes during and after the eclipse, Mila said. About 800 astro tourists from various parts of the country have undertaken the first ever 'Eclipse Tour' to Maldives to view the eclipse.
Maldives is located north of Equator so passengers can view the southern sky constellations- the large and small magellanic clouds, 'Crux' galaxies and constellations which cannot be viewed from India.
In Kerala, solar eclipse, whose visibility was long and clear, turned out to be a "solar festival" not only for scientists but also for the people at large. A large number of people including children turned up to witness the rare spectacle of the century across the state where special arrangements were made for viewing the celestial phenomenon.
Leading scientific institutions including Science and Technology Museum, various colleges and schools made special arrangements for viewing the eclipse, for which glasses and filters were distributed.
"The enthusiasm of common people and students show the growing interest of the society in science. It is a positive sign," Dr Babu Jopseh, physicist and former Vice-Chancellor of Cochin University of Science and Technology, said.
The event also turned out to be an occasion to dispel the superstitious belief attached to solar eclipse for centuries. Experts and teachers in many paces explained to the gathering the scientific aspects of the rare event.
The Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, a major facility of ISRO, is conducting comprehensive tests of data obtained from the eclipse as the insight on ions thrown up by the event is said to be important for space science.
In Haridwar, the otherwise bustling Maha Kumbh Mela came almost to a complete standstill due to the solar eclipse with doors of temples shut and the devout taking to meditation to ward off what they believe to be an inauspicious period.
The ghats, which witnessed several thousands of people taking a holy dip on the occasion of 'Makar Sankranti' yesterday, are now playing host to people performing 'havans' or those meditating.
The enchanting spell of vedic hymns, bells and conch shells, which reverberated throughout the day on Thursday, when the Maha Kumbh began, can no longer be heard. The only sound that seems to echo at the main bathing ghat here 'Hari Ki Pauri' is the cold water of Ganga flowing strong and hitting against the stone steps.
The green coloured iron railing and chains with 'OM' signage above them, which provided the support to the devotees on Thursday from being washed away from by the strong current, continues to rattle as they fight the mighty river.