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Rediff.com  » News » Thousands witness rare celestial spectacle

Thousands witness rare celestial spectacle

Last updated on: July 22, 2009 

Image: The moon passes between the sun and the earth during a total solar eclipse in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh
Photographs: Jayanta Shaw Press Trust of India

Thousands of skywatchers burst into an applause as darkness descended soon after sunrise as the moon came in between the earth and the sun during the total solar eclipse this morning.

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Astronomers who had gathered in Dibrugarh in Assam witnessed the total eclipse between 6:31 am and 6:34 am

However, their counterparts in Taregna in Bihar, touted as the best location to watch the longest eclipse in a century were not so fortunate as clouds played spoilsport blanking out the early morning sun.

Thousands witness rare celestial spectacle

Image: The moon passes between the sun and the earth during a total solar eclipse in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh
Photographs: Jayanta Shaw/Reuters

The celestial spectacle began at 5:45 am and most parts of the country woke up to see an eclipsed sun as the moon passed between the earth and the sun. It ended at 7.24 am.

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In Delhi, clouds played hide-and-seek but still astro-enthusiasts gathered at several places got a glimpse of the sun. Eighty-three per cent of the sun dial was obscured by the moon.

The crescent sun smiled upon New Delhi when the eclipse reached its maximum of 83 per cent at 6:26 am.

Thousands witness rare celestial spectacle

Image: The moon passes between the sun and the earth during a solar eclipse in New Delhi
Photographs: B Mathur/Reuters

Several skywatchers watched the celestial spectacle from Nehru Planetarium where special arrangements were made. Projectors, telescopes and special solar view goggles were made available to the people who gathered to have a glimpse of the cosmic event.

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The last partial solar eclipse occurred on January 26, 2009.

Many people who had gathered at the planetarium were brimming with excitement as they watched the celestial show.

Thousands witness rare celestial spectacle

Image: An aircraft manoeuvring during the solar eclipse in New Delhi
Photographs: B Mathur/Reuters

Teenager Sachi, who came to the planetarium to watch the event, said "It is the first time I am seeing such an event".

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Sixty five-year-old Asha Bhatnagar too was very upbeat about the whole cosmic event.

"In 1980 I first saw the solar eclipse. However, things are different now," she said, adding now we have specialised solar goggles to watch it.

Thousands witness rare celestial spectacle

Image: Local residents watch a solar eclipse on the peak of Malu Mountain in Liuzhou, China
Photographs: China Daily/Reuters

An amateur astronomer Mushir (14) described the whole event as great.

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"It is probably the first and last time I am seeing the eclipse. It feels great," he said.

Kolkata witnessed 91 per cent of the total solar eclipse despite a cloudy sky early morning. Incessant rains, however, proved to be a dampener with the people in Sikkim unable to watch the total eclipse.

Thousands witness rare celestial spectacle

Image: Holy men pray on the banks of river Ganges during the start of a solar eclipse in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh
Photographs: Jayanta Shaw/Reuters

But people in Haryana in the north got a chance to view the celestial spectacle. Pilgrims made a beeline to take bath in the holy sarovars in the state since last night. Tight security arrangements were made in view of the pilgrim rush.

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People at several places in the desert state of Rajasthan were left disappointed as the eclipse was not visible from maximum places in the state following cloudy weather.

The eclipse was, however, seen clearly from Bikaner, Kota, Jodhpur, Udaipur, Ganganagar and Hanumangarh. Residents of the Pink city Jaipur got a glimpse of the eclipse at 06:32 am for one-and-half minute.

Thousands witness rare celestial spectacle

Image: A scientist takes a photo of the eclipse through a telescope
Photographs: Kham/Reuters

Visibility of the eclipse, according to experts, was between 75 to 87 per cent. The celestial event began in the state at 05:46 am and ended at 07:23 am.

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In the western part of the country, rains and clouds denied the celestial treat to avid sky watchers.

At the Katara hills in Bhopal, rains played spoilsport and the eclipse could not be seen although it was dark during the three-minute period. However, the eclipse was visible in Katni in Madhya Pradesh.