Solar eclipse wows crowds

Many curious onlookers gathered at various locations across Singapore - including Merlion Park, Marina Barrage and the Science Centre - to watch the "ring of fire" annular solar eclipse yesterday.

Dubbed the "greatest astronomical event in Singapore", it began at about 11.30am.

At National Junior College (NJC) in Bukit Timah, more than 1,000 people assembled to catch the rare astronomical phenomenon. They started streaming in at about 9am.

NJC set up 14 high-powered telescopes in the school field for members of the public to view the eclipse. The school is home to the largest and highest resolution amateur-class solar telescopes here.

Dr Kunwar Bir Singh, who was at NJC with his 13-year-old daughter and her friend, said he saw an eclipse when he was very young, but Thursday's phenomenon was the first time he got to see an annular solar eclipse properly through a telescope.

"It's a new experience, a once-in-a-lifetime thing that you won't see every day," said Dr Singh, 43.

The annular solar eclipse occurs when the moon covers the sun's centre, but is too far away from the earth to entirely blot out the sun.

For the first time in two decades, the sight was visible in the Singapore sky yesterday. It will next appear in 2063.

"To see it, I will have to live above a hundred years old, and that eclipse will not be as spectacular," said Mr Alfred Tan, 59, vice-principal of administration at NJC and a solar astronomer with 10 years of experience.

The last solar eclipse of the year was visible in parts of India yesterday too.

While a large crowd gathered in north Kerala's Cheruvathur and Wayanad to witness it, a thick cover of cloud hampered viewing in large parts of Maharashtra and New Delhi. The eclipse passed through the country between 8.05am and 11am (Indian time).

According to Mr Debiprosad Duari, director at MP Birla Planetarium, the eclipse could be seen within a narrow path grazing the southern Indian peninsula through Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu before crossing the Bay of Bengal into northern Sri Lanka.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted that he could not see the solar eclipse due to cloud cover in New Delhi, but caught glimpses on live stream.

He said: "Unfortunately, I could not see the sun due to cloud cover but I did catch glimpses of the eclipse in Kozhikode and other parts on live stream. Also enriched my knowledge on the subject by interacting with experts."

The Straits Times, Indo-Asian News Service


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