Friday, August 1, 2008
It is an excitement coupled with fear and superstition for many in India prior to the solar eclipse on August 1. Despite a well known scientific phenomenon behind the solar eclipse, people have not been able to do away with the superstitious beliefs related to the celestial activity. "There are several false beliefs prevalent in our society regarding solar eclipse. Some people even lock themselves in their homes to avoid 'the bad rays' from the eclipse," Nehru Planetarium Director N. Rathnashree said. Many also take dip in holy rivers to cleanse themselves after the eclipse. There are others who believe that pregnant women should refrain from cutting and sewing during the eclipse as it can lead to deformities in the unborn child. "I have been told that during an eclipse the number of germs increases. Therefore, no food is eaten or cooked during the event, and any food cooked before the eclipse is discarded," said 32-year-old Anamika Singh, an executive with an IT company. According to Rathnashree, not the fear but precautions should be taken during the eclipse. "Solar eclipse is an interesting activity and should be watched under the supervision of experts with proper gadgets," Rathnashree said. The people in India will witness a partial solar eclipse on Aug 1. The eclipse in Delhi begins at 16:03:03 and ends at 17:56:07. The maximum of eclipse occurs at 17:02:05, when the sun is eclipsed by about 62.4 percent in diameter. "It is very important to emphasise that viewing the eclipse with naked eyes would be very dangerous for the eyes. Viewing the Sun through a telescope or a binoculars without a proper filter is many times more dangerous - do not ever do that, it could destroy your eyesight," Rathnashree said. According to Rathnashree, the safest way of viewing a partial solar eclipse is through the method of projection. A pair of binoculars can be used along with a long hardboard box, to obtain good projected views of the Sun, for safe solar viewing, he said. "By projection method, a pinhole or small opening is used to cast the image of the sun on a screen placed a half-meter or more beyond the opening," said the expert. If you do not have access to a telescope or a pair of binoculars with which you can make this setup for projection, Rathnashree explained an easy method of how to use a kitchen 'chhanni' (fine sieve) that has very small perforations. Hold the sieve just above the ground, tilting its face towards the sun. Moving the sieve a little away from the ground, one can see an image of the sun forming, which will show the eclipse when it occurs. The people should also avoid watching solar eclipse using sunglasses, single or multiple layers, smoked glass, colour film, black-and-white film that contains no silver, or photographic negatives with images on them. Nehru Planetarium, in collaboration with the Amateur Astronomers Association, Delhi will be conducting public sky-watch for the eclipse from the Jantar Mantar, the planetarium and the India Gate area. "If clouds permit, a pinhole placed at the crosswires of the Jai Prakas instrument of the Jantar Mantar observatory, would be used to trace the entire progress of the eclipse in the bowl of the instrument," Rathnashree said.
What is an eclipse of the Sun? What causes eclipses and why? How often do eclipses happen and when is the next eclipse of the Sun? You'll learn the answers to these questions and more in MrEclipse's primer on solar eclipses. Before we learn more about the eclipses of the Sun, we need to first talk about the Moon.