Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Total Solar Eclipse 22 July 2009

A total solar eclipse was visible in parts of central and northern India on 22nd July 2009. I went to the Harish Chandra Research Institute (HRI), Allahabad to see one for the first time in my life (and perhaps the last!) Even though Allahabad was not on the path of totality, HRI was, though members of the institute has arranged transport to go to the St. John's Academy, Karchhana on the outskirts of Allahabad where totality was to last longer, for about a minute and a half.

The bus to take us there was fixed for 4 AM to catch the start of the eclipse around day break. Needless to say, this being Allahabad, UP, the bus didn't show up. (Apparently it showed up an hour late, the driver had fallen asleep). Fortunately members of the institute took a spirited decision to commandeer the two institute buses and take them to the site. We reached well in time and were greeted by an enormous crowd of students, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, of all ages and all in their uniforms, who had been hoicked out of their beds at 4AM to prepare for the viewing and welcome us -- the 'distinguished guests' who tottered in still rubbing sleep from their eyes.

After a short lecture to explain the phenomena to the kids, we watched the sun go slowly behind, first the clouds, and then the moon. Fortunately the clouds dispersed soon enough and we had a beautiful viewing of the eclipse, the totality and the diamond ring. (No Bailey Beads though). Everyone, irrespective of their age - from 5 to 50 squealed in delight when darkness settled upon us at 6.30 in the morning. As a bonus, both Venus and Jupiter were clearly visible in the morning sky.

A memorable experience and a sight that few people get to see. And all for the purely accidental coincidence of the moon and the sun having almost the same angular diameter.

Some of the pictures I took are on my photos page. Note that there are two pages of photos. (Canon Rebel XT Digital SLR, Canon zoom at 450 mm (300mm 35m equivalent), mylar filter except at totality).


AmOK said...

By George! I think you've GOT IT!

Keep up the good posts. These are far, far superior to some other blog posts I have seen from your fellow-bloggers. I am not STRINGing you along either. Good stuff.

Though answer me this: why do we not celebrate the earth shadow by night as we do the moon shadow by day?

Anonymous said...

Needless to say, this being Allahabad, UP, the bus didn't show up.

Huh? And how many times has the bus not shown up in Allahabad, UP ?

AmOK said...

Wonderful question! You see in Allahabad ( unlike Chennai ) the whole culture revolves around late buses. So for instance the bus driver got HOME late - as his friends from the night before stayed late since they arrived late for dinner and so the driver overslept (who can blame him?) but a number of others who got late to the bus were happy to catch it late and thanked the driver for oversleeping. In Chennai now .. things are different. Everyone is on time. So it all adds up -- unless you are a visitor -- then it can all be very confusing. So don't take it so hard, sacredfig.

Rahul Basu said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rahul Basu said...

sacredfig: As it happens -- numerous times. Most of the people I met waiting disconsolately for the bus at 4AM were very sceptical that it would come and they were right! There was a time when a bus was ordered at 6AM and turned up at 12 noon! At least this time he came only an hour late.

So it happens more often than you's far more frequent than a total solar eclipse :)

Anant said...


Most awesome pictures. Do keep up the great work, and have a fine remainder of your stay in Allahabad. Hope your bus gets you to the railway station in time for the journey back to Chennai.


Anonymous said...

Looks like some people have been facing chronic bus delays in Allahabad, UP. I wouldn't blame the bus driver. Heck! I wouldn't show up either if I had to ferry around whiny little ladies from Chennai! I say, just stay home, slurrrrp your rasam and stare away at your clocks ...hear a ticking ? :-)

AmOK said...

What would Jesus do?