Jan 13, 2010

Catch the Annular Solar Eclipse That Won’t Repeat For A Thousand Years!

The first solar eclipse of 2010 will take place on 15th January and will be visible across Africa and Eastern Asia in full glory, although Europe and Central Asia also get to witness a part of it.

This will not be a spectacular total solar eclipse that seems to cover the earth in darkness, but only an annular eclipse, which means the edge of the Sun will be visible the whole time. Nevertheless, the eclipse makes up for the lack of darkness by its exceptional duration at its peak over the Indian Ocean – 11 minutes, 8 seconds – and you will not see a solar eclipse that lasts this long for over 1,000 years.

The place and time, please

People living in Central Africa and Eastern Asia will get the front row seats of the annular show but others living far and wide (Eastern Europe, most of Africa, and Middle East) will not be left out of a view of a partial solar eclipse. Here are the times and places in GMT:
  • Congo, Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Saudi Arabia, Tanzania: after 05:00 GMT
  • Maldives: at 07:26 GMT
  • Israel: at 06:03 GMT
  • India, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Hong Kong, China, Burma, Bangladesh: after 08:00 GMT
What is a solar eclipse?

At this point, you may be wondering what all the excitement is about. Here’s your answer. As the moon orbits Earth (which orbits the Sun), it may come between the Earth and the Sun, and block some (partial solar eclipse), most (annular solar eclipse) or all (total solar eclipse) sunlight. The event may take place a couple of times a year but it’s always two weeks before or after a lunar eclipse takes place. Other cool facts can be found here.

Be warned! Solar eclipses can blind you!

If you look at a partial or annular solar eclipse (even when 99% of the Sun is hidden) with your bare eyes, or through a camera lens, or even through binoculars and telescopes, you may permanently damage your eye. The sun’s rays are strong enough to burn your retina at these times.

But, when the total solar eclipse has set in and not even a tiny portion of the Sun is visible, you can open your eyes and look at the amazing atmosphere.

Safety precautions

You can use the following items but do not experiment by using them with telescopes or cameras, or by trying other forms of filters (black and white films, removable films, etc.) unless you’re absolutely sure they are safe:
  • View a projected image of the solar eclipse through a pin-hole setup
  • Use solar filters (made of aluminum, chromium or silver that is deposited on their surfaces to weaken ultraviolet, and infrared energy)
  • Welders glasses with a rating of at least 14
Even if your eyes feel no discomfort, it’s better to avoid such a risk.

So as the moon’s shadow travels over 20,000km across the earth, be sure to take your safety precautions and observe one of the greatest celestial phenomena.

Sources: eBlog, NASA, Eclipse Blog, Eclipse Predictions by Fred Espenak, NASA's GSFC"

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