Science groups and enthusiasts await July 22 solar eclipse

Teachers at an astronomy workshop on solar eclipse organised by Department of Science and Technology in Bhopal. PTI"The solar eclipse on July 22 is the longest total solar eclipse that will occur in the 21st century, and will not be surpassed in duration until June 13, 2132. So, we are trying our best to popularise the event," Science Popularisation Association of Communicators and Educators (SPACE) Director, C B Devgun said.

SPACE has organised six programmes to involve people around the country in the event, he said.

Heliodyssey-2009 will be an expedition for students that will take them to viewing sites in the country and even in China to observe the event closely. This year 10 students have been sponsored by SPACE to travel to China while 30 to Patna to conduct experiments during the eclipse.

Also, a team of scientists and astronomers from SPACE will be conducting experiments at sites in India and China. The experiments will include capturing the solar corona, diamond ring, Bailey's beads, chromosphere and the illusive flash spectrum.

For the first time in India, a chartered flight will fly through the lunar shadow to capture visuals of the eclipse.

The flight, to be boarded by 20 veteran eclipse chasers, has 21 seats facing the sun and an equal number of earth-facing seats.

SPACE will also highlight the contribution of ancient astronomer Aryabhatta.

Taregana -- a place 30 km south of Patna city, has been adjudged the best place to view the total eclipse by NASA and SPACE has organised public viewing at the area.

As part of efforts to promote astronomy tourism in India, the body has organised 'Eclipse Chase-09' programme under which over a 100 guests from across the nation will travel to the eclipse watch site to witness the celestial gem.

Meanwhile, at 'Cosmic Crossroads,' avid photographers will capture the celestial phenomenon on camera and contribute the images to a collective pool.

This will help build a rich and resourceful collection of images showcasing the eclipse casting its shadow over heritage sites across the length and breath of the country.

The Nehru Plantarium in Delhi will organise various workshops during the celestial event.

"We have made arrangements for public viewing at the planetarium and at India Gate for people to witness the cosmic gem," Rathnashree, Director Nehru planetarium said.

A team of Bangalore-based Indian Institute of Astrophysics, led by its Director Prof Siraj Hasan, a solar physicist, is visiting Anji near Hangzhou in eastern China where an observation camp has already been set up to observe the total solar eclipse.

The experiments aim at studying the existence of waves in the solar corona.

Meanwhile, an NGO 'Manthan' is working to break the myths and superstitions associated with the celestial phenomenon.

"We are organising activities and observations for people and children to make them understand what the celestial phenomenon is all about," its Out-Reach Co-ordinator Kanthan Kothari said.

"We give scientific reasoning to beat myths," he said.

A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon comes directly between the earth and the sun. The eclipse will begin in India and will be seen in Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar and China.

The visual treat will start at 5:30 am and last for about two hours.

The Indian cities through which the path of totality passes are Bhavnagar, Surat, Ujjain, Indore, Bhopal, Sagar, Jabalpur, Varanasi, Allahabad, Gaya, Patna, Bhagalpur, Jalpaigudi, Guwahati and Dibrugarh.

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