On 15 Jan South India (and a few other places from coastal Africa to southern China) would witness a rare annular eclipse (the moon would be right within the sun’s disc leaving a thin ring all round) known as “Kangana gragam” (Bangle eclipse) in Sanskrit.
14 January 2010
Three miracles fascinate us in perpetuity: the Universe, birth of a child and death.
My fascination with the sky started early. On a solar eclipse day four decades back, my grandmother told me fascinating stories handed to her by her ancestors on how the snake tries to eat the sun; could not handle it and unsuccessfully gorges out after a while. For a young boy, the spectacle of a snake trying to eat the sun was more enjoyable (and therefore accepted) than my dad’s explanation of planetary motions in the solar system, shadows cast, views blocked and rare ability to observe stuff denied observation otherwise.
My dad and I viewed the eclipse through “soot layered glass” and “black and white film negative” (the glass is certainly not recommended; the negative is probably not recommendable). I could see the eclipsed sun but was quite disappointed to not see the snake!
Several years later, as a young professional (with astronomy as a rewarding hobby that got me an exchange student scholarship to the United States) I saw the eclipse in a more scientific environment (using a pair of binoculars to get the sun focused on a white board; do not see directly the sun through binoculars or telescope) with brilliant clarity.
We have since graduated to using a Meade Telescope on an equatorial mount that moves just to compensate for earth’s movement and “locates and auto tracks” over 10,000 celestial bodies (and some made by man).
None can beat the experience my wife and I had with our naked eye in a recent Dubai Desert Safari. After the exciting drive over the dunes, a camel ride, a colorless belly dancing and a tasteless Arabic dinner, somewhere in the middle of the desert, they switched off all lights for 15 minutes and asked us to look at the sky. We saw millions of stars where a countable few existed just a few minutes earlier.
Losing “touch” with the sky is a big price we pay for lighting up our nights.
www.PongalEclipse.com (brought to you by a Repute Infotech, a business enterprise in my neighborhood in Chennai) provides information about the eclipse in a truly informative and exciting way. The animation about the progress of moon’s shadow on earth’s surface over time makes it easy to understand.
A long while back an Arab boss of mine (thank you Hikmat Dandan) suggested I should “see with my heart” and not just “with my eyes” when we had a significant disagreement on a strategic issue. One can twist that to "see with your brain" and not just with your "heart and eyes". You can see the eclipse with your brain at this site.
Make sure your kids enjoy the eclipse and the site.