Virtual dusk at noon, 'ring of fire' appears during eclipse
It was virtual dusk a little past noon and the sky produced a ring of fire on Friday as the moon came in between the sun and earth to mark the millennium's longest solar eclipse in this southern tip and its neighbourhood.
The rest of India witnessed partially the annular eclipse, which will repeat only in 3014, began at 11:17 AM at Dhanushkodi island, the best location to watch the eclipse.
It was a spectacular sight when the photosphere of the sun was covered by the moon thereby forming a ring of fire in the sky for more than 10 minutes.
"It was less than dark but more than twilight," described B Dasgupta of MP Planetarium, who was leading a group of astronomers to observe the event. A similar event but not of this duration is expected to occur in 2019 which will be visible in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.
During the annular solar eclipse, the Sun appears as a very bright annulus, which in Latin means 'ring', surrounding the outline of the Moon, giving the appearance of a 'Ring of Fire.
In Varkala town in neighbouring Kerala, located on the edge of the eclipse path, a team of astronomers photographed the event using three telescopes.
Notwithstanding efforts by science associations and rationalists to remove scare among the people based on superstitious beliefs, major temples remained closed throughout the country and people thronged holy rivers for a ritual bath to wash away their sins at the end of the four-hour-long astronomical event.
As the moon started covering the sun, astronomers tried to capture the special phenomenon during the eclipse nicknamed 'Baily's Beads' from Varkala.
As the rare celestial event enlivened southern Kerala, scientists of Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre launched a series of rockets from Thumba to collect data.
As part of the campaign, nine sounding rockets were launched before and during the eclipse from Thumba attached to the VSCC and Satish Dhawan Space Centre, also known as the Sriharikota Range (SHAR), to collect data on the event.
The eclipse, regarded unique as it took place during noon, when the incoming solar radiation was at its maximum, passed close to Thumba with 91 per cent obscuration of the Sun and its edges touched Sriharikota with 85 per cent obscuration.
It was also significant since the obscuration of the Sun during the eclipse was exceptionally long, about 11 minutes and eight seconds, providing an opportunity to study, perhaps for the first time, the eclipse induced effects in the noontime equatorial region, the officials said.
In Kanyakumari, the eclipse was watched by a team of six scientists from the Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA).
In Delhi and much of North India, which only witnessed a partial eclipse, clouds played spoilsport much to the disappointment of skywatchers.
The cashew-shaped sun smiled upon the capital when the eclipse reached its maximum at 1:53 PM.
It was defeaning silence in Haridwar, the scene of hectic religious activities only a day before at the start of three-month-long Maha Kumbh, when the devout took to meditation to ward off "possible ill effects" of the eclipse.
They thronged the bathing ghats once the event was over.
In Kurukshetra, a large number of pilgrims from all over the country thronged the holy city for taking a holy dip in the Brahamsarovar and the Sannihit Sarovar.