Bengaluru: The annular solar eclipse set to occur on Sunday, 21 June, will be visible in the morning in parts of North India, while the rest of the country will see a partial eclipse.
An annular eclipse occurs when the moon is farthest from the Earth, and thus, does not block out the sun entirely, leaving a ‘ring (annulus) of fire’ visible.
Sunday’s eclipse is rare as it will occur on June 21, which is the date of the annual summer solstice or June solstice. On this day, which typically falls on either June 20 or 21 each year, the earth’s pole is tilted at its maximum towards the sun in the northern hemisphere.
The northern hemisphere also sees its longest day of the year on the solstice and the Arctic Circle sees continuous daylight through midnight. The Southern Hemisphere sees its longest night. The summer solstice occurs for the Southern Hemisphere on 21 or 22 December each year, and is called the December solstice or the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere.
Where can India see the annular solar eclipse?
The eclipse will first be visible in India in Bhuj, Gujarat, at 9.58 am IST. It will be last seen in India in Dibrugarh, Assam, at 2.29 pm.
Not all of India lies in the path of annularity. The ring of fire will only be visible in a specific narrow band of the country.
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The annular path will begin at 10.12 am in Gharsana, Rajasthan, and end at 12.10 pm at Joshimath, Uttarakhand. All regions will see the maximum or peak of the eclipse in a perfect ring of fire for about a minute before the moon starts to move away.
The ring of fire will be visible in parts of northern Rajasthan (Gharsana, Anupgarh, Vijaynagar, Suratgarh), peaking between 11.49 and 11.53 am, Haryana (Ellenabad, Sirsa, Jakhal, Tohana, Khanauri, Pehowa, Kurukshetra, Ladwa, Yamunanagar), peaking between 11.54 am and 12.03 pm, and Uttarakhand (Dehradun, New Tehri, Chamoli Gopeshwar, Joshimath), where it will peak progressively between 12.04 and 12.10 pm.
After the peak or full eclipse ends, it will turn partial and will continue to be visible along this path for another 90 minutes. The rest of the country does not lie in the path of the annular eclipse, and will see only a partial solar eclipse, which will peak when a maximum area of the sun is covered in that region:
Delhi: 93 per cent coverage of sun, peaking at 12.01 pm
Kolkata: 65 per cent coverage of sun, peaking at 12.35 pm
Mumbai: 62 per cent coverage of sun, peaking at 11.37 am
Chennai: 34 per cent coverage of sun, peaking at 11.59 am
Visakhapatnam: 48 per cent coverage of sun, peaking at 12.15 pm
Dibrugarh: 86 per cent coverage of sun, peaking at 12.54 pm
Bengaluru: 36 per cent coverage of sun, peaking at 11.47 am
Bhopal: 73 per cent coverage of sun, peaking at 11.57 am
(Check timings over your region here )
The eclipse itself will first start in the Republic of the Congo, moving into the neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo, then South Sudan, Ethiopia, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Pakistan, India, Tibet, China and Taiwan, before exiting in the Pacific Ocean just after the island of Guam.
How to watch the eclipse
As with any solar eclipse, seeing the phenomenon with the naked eye is extremely unsafe. Observing the sun directly or through telescopes or binoculars during an eclipse is extremely dangerous and could even lead to blindness. Using an X-ray film or sunglasses is also not safe as they don’t fully filter out the infrared and ultraviolet radiation reaching the eyes.
It is also not advisable to use a lens to observe an eclipse. Pointing cameras directly at an eclipse is to be avoided as well, unless they are equipped with lens-protection filters for eclipses.
Observing the solar eclipse requires special glasses with filters. These are sold as solar eclipse goggles and can be purchased in most cities. Big telescope manufacturers also sell aluminium-coated mylar filter sheets that can fit over telescopes. Glasses used by welders are also safe for the eyes.
Perhaps the safest method to observe the eclipse is through pinhole projection: Create a small hole of about a 3 mm radius in a cardboard paper or a thick sheet such as watercolour paper. Face away from the sun and hold it up, so that the sun’s rays can fall through the hole on to a wall or another sheet of paper. This effectively functions as a pinhole camera and ‘live-streams’ the sun onto your wall. Avoid looking through the hole in the paper at the sun.
Most importantly, physical distancing and masks must be mandatory for precautionary reasons during the Covid-19 pandemic. If you want to witness the eclipse digitally, many local astronomy groups, colleges and planetariums have organised online viewing events. Slooh.com, the Virtual Telescope Project and Time And Date will also live stream the eclipse.
Types and effects of solar eclipses
There are three types of solar eclipses in terms of how they appear to us from Earth.
A solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between Earth and the sun. As it moves along its path, it blocks the sun’s light. A partial blocking is called a partial eclipse. A complete blocking out of the sun, which occurs when the moon is closest to the Earth and thus much bigger, is a total solar eclipse.
Sunday’s eclipse is annular in some regions since the moon is farthest from Earth and not big enough in relative size to block out the full sun. Since it is farther away, it also creates an annular ring only at certain angles of visibility; the rest of the world, which can see the sun, will only see a partial eclipse.
Any time an eclipse occurs, a wide array of myths float on social and news media about dangers of stepping out, eating food, or undertaking important events. These are simply misconceptions and superstitions, not rooted in science with no bearing on reality.
Travelling (during non-Covid times), starting new projects, wearing jewellery, cooking and consuming food and all other such daily activities during eclipses are perfectly safe. The eclipse also has no bearing on the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. It will neither affect the virus, nor did it cause the pandemic, contrary to statements made by astrologers in the media.
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