Cloudy skies hamper viewing of annular eclipse in Delhi

New Delhi, Jun 21 (PTI) With clouds shrouding the skies in the national capital on Sunday, sky gazers missed a clear view of the annular solar eclipse that would have showed them the Sun look like a ring of fire.

The annular phase began at 10.19 am and ended at 1.58 pm. The eclipse was at its peak at 12.01 pm, the Department of Science and Technology said.  N Rathnashree, Director of Nehru Planetarium, said the visibility of the eclipse was hampered due to the clouds. Those who managed to get a glimpse of the eclipse despite the cloudy skies said they could see the Sun in a crescent shape.

The viewing was also affected due to social distancing norms in place in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Rathnashree said although they had set up an equipment in the lawns of Nehru Planetarium, images were live-streamed and webcast on their Youtube page.

The annular phase was visible within a narrow corridor in northern India, like parts of Rajasthan, Haryana and Uttarakhand. A few prominent places within this annularity path were Dehradun, Kurukshetra, Chamoli, Joshimath, Sirsa, Suratgarh.

It was a partial solar eclipse for the rest of the country.

The annular path also passed through Congo, Sudan, Ethiopia, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Pakistan and China.

Obscuration of the Sun by the Moon at the time of greatest phase of partial eclipse was around 94 per cent in Delhi.

This rare kind of solar eclipse also coincides with the summer solstice or the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere and offers easy viewing of the celestial event.

The next annular eclipse will be seen from South America in December. Another annular eclipse will occur in 2022 but that will be hardly visible from India, Rathnashree added.

A solar eclipse occurs on a new moon day when the Moon comes in between the Earth and the Sun and all the three celestial bodies are aligned.

An annular solar eclipse will occur when the angular diameter of the Moon falls short of that of the Sun so that it cannot cover up the latter completely. As a result, a ring of the Sun's disk remains visible around the Moon. This gives an image of a ring of fire.

Harpreet Kaur Samby, a teacher with the South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC), had arranged a telescope and created a ball mirror image for viewing the solar eclipse. But the clouds had covered the sun.

'I could not see the eclipse properly due to the clouds,' Samby, who is the coordinator of the science club at her school, said.

However, she managed to take some photographs and videos for sharing with her students on her school's WhatsApp group.

There was also a point when the sky appeared like it was evening, especially when the eclipse had reached its peak.

'I could see a lot of avian activity in the sky during that time,' Samby said.

However, there were a few who travelled to Kurukshetra in Haryana, where the eclipse was clearly visible.

Arvind Ranade, a scientist with the Department of Science and Technology, was among those who went to Kurukshetra, 150 kilometers from Delhi.

'We could see the eclipse clearly, especially the Baily's beads,' Ranade said.

Named after English astronomer Francis Baily, Baily's beads are an arc of bright spots seen during total and annular eclipses of the Sun.

Just before the Moon's disk covers the Sun, the narrow crescent of sunlight may be broken in several places by irregularities (mountains and valleys) on the edge of the Moon's disk.

The resulting array of spots roughly resembles a string of beads.  There are several myths associated with eclipse. For instance, people do not eat during the eclipse. Zomato, the restaurant finder and food delivery app tweeted, “are y'all eating between 10-2pm today? just confirming.” T V Venkateswaran of the Public Outreach and Education Committee of the Astronomical Society of India said they had run a social media campaign with hastag #EclipseEating to break the myth.  Many posted pictures online which showed them eating during the eclipse. PTI PR RT