Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Total Solar Eclipse

Astronomers in this part of the world have been spending an excited dawn searching the skies for the solar eclipse of this year. It began at about a quarter past six and went on till half past seven, total eclipse visible in the northern region of India stretching from Gujarat in the west to Assam in the east.

Here at Bangalore, the eclipse was supposed to be 65%, the sun would rise already partially eclipsed, however when I got up around 7 and took a look through the sun-glasses, I was surprised - contrary to what the scientists predicted, it seemed to be a total eclipse! However, the sun was totally eclipsed by clouds, and not by the darkened moon.

News from Mumbai says the early morning sky-watchers were disappointed to the point of tears because the Rain Gods played mischief and the torrent did not stop till the eclipse was well out of the way.

News from Trivandrum is more encouraging, sun watchers have been able to see the promised partial eclipse, and they have breakfasted, content with the sight.

Do you have experiences to share about today's eclipse or any previous ones? Photos, links and comments welcome!


  1. Coverage on this side of the globe seems to focus on people in India thinking the eclipse was going to kill the crops, cause birth defects and otherwise create havoc. It seems, from this distance, that there are two Indias, but I'm wondering if the emphasis on that aspect of the eclipse is inappropriate, or was the fear that widespread, compared to those who saw it as an interesting astronomical event?

  2. (Also, for those who do have those fears, are they genuine concerns, or are they more of a tradition like, in the West, not walking under ladders or not wanting to break a mirror.)

  3. You have raised a profound question, Mike. There certainly are two Indias (if not more!). I believe it is recently that people have started accepting eclipses (both solar and lunar) as amazing celestial events which do not cause harm to humans.
    As per legend, two demons Rahu and Kethu swallow the sun and the moon during the eclipse. I just found out a link detailing the story here.
    I do not know if the fears are genuine, but even among the scientific and learnt community, there are people who avoid going out during the eclipse. When I was pregnant, I was advised against going out during the time of the eclipse (there was a partial solar eclipse in Oct 2005) lest it causes harm to my unborn child.
    But now, there is more awareness, and more and more people dare to venture out and look up.

  4. Just bookmarked that site for potential future use. Very interesting!

  5. i truly remember the total solar eclipse we had in South Carolina, USA in the 70s. it made life seem so precarious - such forces beyond our control doing uncommon things!

  6. :)Nice doubt from Mike. I follow all the rituals associated to eclipse(whenever I come to know there is one) 'coz parent's do it.. And parents do it fully knowing the scientific side of it 'coz great grand parents used to do these rituals and they would have liked ma and pa continue doing it. So I guess now for the new generation Indians like me, following those rituals(fast during eclipse, cook food only after eclipse, pray and bathe after it)fully knowing the scientific side of it is more to pay respect to elders and continue their traditions. So now it's kind of a celebration for us like y'day it was, fast till 9:45am and there after cook a feast and have a day's off in the name of eclipse. By the way, I even wished ma and pa 'Happy eclipse' hihi

  7. anupsar: Was the eclipse total in Singapore? Did you get to see it?

  8. It was nice to know that you had a total eclipsed Sun, thanks to the permanent cloud cover of Bangaluru. Here in Thiruvananthapuram the clouds were slightly transparent, about 4 on a 0 to 6 scale of increasing transparency. No photography was possible. Sun rise was at 6.13. But it would come above the eastern hills at around 6.30.By that time the eclipse was well advanced.And there was a seven-story building nicely placed. It would have made an ugly silhouette anyway.The Sun was really beautiful wearing the veil of fast moving layers of clouds.I could see it through the
    eclipse-goggle. The sight reminded one of the face of the veiled Rebekah. You can see a marble statue of the Veiled Rebekah(Rebecca) at the Salar Jung Museum in Hyderabad.

    Yes, Mike, such feelings are strong especially among the rural poor. We have millions of poor people. The residue of centuries of exploitation by our own kings and the
    invaders - the Khans, the Ghazanees, the Mughals, the Potuguese, the Dane, the French, the English. Wealth flowed from this part of the world to Europe.Remember pirates were knighted in England when they brought huge catches.Compare Africa which was lootted to the bottom and man what a plight they are in! Our country with its millions of poor people, number of religions,casts and languages and the new rich has tremendous resilience. May be we survived because of that.That resilience springs from the deep traditional belief systems which are usually labeled irrational.Anupsar mentions about the seemingly meaningless rituals.But I would say they are the memes quite successfully employed for the survival.
    Yes,Mike, the western media highlight disproportionately such Indian believes, rituals and actions. At the same time they print-or telecast-in small print,many incidents directly related to what a modern scientifically inclined person would call absurd and irrational ways of life in such advanced socities.
    Mumbaikars were in tears literally this time.But then dont worry. There will be an annular eclipse on 15th Jan 2010. It will be visible from the southern end of India. Thiruvananthapuram city is slightly offset. But Nagarcoil and Kanyakumari are in the center path. Come to see that brilliant ring.It is March and the show is scheduled to begin at around 11AM local time.Chances are better for excellent viewing.
    Sorry, this has become a bit lengthy.

  9. Correction...
    The penultimate sentence should begin-It is January (and not It is March)
    Hey give us a chance to edit the comments after publishing, say for a few hours.See the unintended gaps at two places in my comments.

  10. In his follow-up to "Lives of a Bengal Lancer," Yeats-Brown wrote of India (in the 1930s) saying that the lack of modernisation provided a depth of religious feeling because the specific elements of the holy books were still present in the daily lives of the people. By comparison, he suggested, the Bible speaks of a spring in the desert to people who live in modern cities with water on tap, who cannot truly feel what the original hearers of those words experienced. He said it made it easier for Westerners to think of their religion as something that only happens in churches and to behave otherwise in their daily lives, while the poor, rural Indian saw around him the same things he heard in the stories from his holy books and was far more connected on a daily basis.

    I wouldn't wish poverty on any people, or seek to stop progress on that level, but how nice if the level of belief could survive the process!