Taregna disappoints eclipse watchers

 A partially eclipsed sun is seen under cloud cover from Taregna on Wednesday. AFP

This nondescript sub divisional town, 30 km from Patna, where ancient astronomer Aryabhatta (476 AD) had set up an observatory to track the movement of stars, was considered the best place to view the event and drew the most footfalls from home and abroad.

Astronomers, scientists besides the people in thousands had gathered for the early morning show, but were disappointed as they could not witness the actual eclipse because of a cloudy sky.

Though the eclipse was not seen, darkness descended for four minutes from 6:28 am and the sky watchers letting out a collective cheer.

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who along with his deputy Sushil Kumar Modi and some ministerial colleagues had gathered to watch the eclipse from the roof of a two-storey hospital, said, "Like the light after darkness of an eclipse, the darkness over Bihar will clear soon."

He said that government had already decided to set up a university for technical education at Patna named after Aryabhatta.

On Taregna, Kumar said, "It has a glorious past. Aryabhatta had set up an observatory here to observe stars."

He announced that the area would be developed as a hub of scientific studies.
Two representatives from NASA and those from Mumbai-based NGO SPACE were present at the site.

SPACE representative Amitabh Pandey briefed those gathered on the eclipse and answered queries from the people who had gathered in fields, railway lines and rooftops.

A disappointed tourist from Belgium said, "I'm completely devastated. I travelled thousands of kilometres and all I got see was a cloudy sky and not the actual eclipse."
Another foreigner, Chris, who camped here, was more enthusiastic. "I believe god is the true engineer of nature. Though the clouds played spoilsport, it was awesome. It was a night-like situation with colds winds blowing."

Security personnel were deployed along the roads leading to Taregna from the state capital as Maoist had called a bandh in five states.

The security of the area was entrusted to the CRPF supervised by senior officials from Patna.

Schools in Patna and elsewhere organised workshops and interactive sessions on the occasion.

Thousands of people who had bought special glasses to view the spectacle were left disappointed due to the cloud cover.

"We bought the glasses...but we had not thought that clouds would spoil the show," a student of Delhi Public School said.

Most hotels in Patna were booked in advance by scientists, researchers and tourists.

Travel agency Cox and Kings said that a group of amateur astronomers booked a Boeing 737 for the two hour journey from Delhi to Gaya in Bihar, to watch the solar eclipse.

According to NASA scientists, the path of the moon's umbral shadow began in India and crossed through Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan and China before curving south across the Pacific ocean. Targena was in the central path of the complete solar eclipse.

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