Thousands of people in this Tamil Nadu city watched the longest annular solar eclipse of the millennium that began at 11.06 a.m. Friday. Scientists and students from several parts of the country have converged here to study the celestial spectacle.
An annular solar eclipse occurs when the sun and the moon are exactly in line, but the apparent size of the Moon\’s shadow is smaller than the visible disc of the sun, making it appear like a ring of fire. The eclipse is expected to peak to annular eclipse at 1.15 p.m.
Said Rajendra Ratnoo, district collector of Kanyakumari: \”Television sets have been set up at the viewing centre near the Public Works Department guesthouse. A telescope has been connected to a plasma TV for people to see.\”
He said around 750 students from 25 states have come to Kanyakumari to witness the celestial spectacle.
According to the police, around 150 security personnel have been deployed as they expect around 15,000 people to visit the viewing centre.
The last time India saw this \’Ring of Fire\’ was Nov 22, 1965, and it will not witness such a phenomenon again before June 21, 2020. The next longest annular solar eclipse will be seen in 3043.
While the visibility of the eclipse will be more in Tamil Nadu as compared to other parts of the country, it will be longer in Rameshwaram and Danushkodi, around 580 km from state capital Chennai.
\”People in southern parts of the country, especially in Dhanushkodi near Rameshwaram, will be lucky to see the heavenly sight of \’Ring of Fire\’. The eclipse will be best viewed at Dhanushkodi for a duration of 10 minutes and 13 seconds,\” N. Ratnashree, director of the Nehru Planetarium in Delhi, had said Thursday.
In India, the eclipse was first seen south of Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu and is then to move to Rameshwaram and Dhanushkodi. It will end in Mizoram in the northeast around 3.15 p.m.
Hordes of people, including scientists and students, have gathered at Kanyakumari, Rameshwaram and nearby Danushkodi to witness and study this rare celestial phenomenon. The eclipse was also seen in other parts of the state like Madurai and Thanjavur.
A pilgrimage town, Rameshwaram had almost all hotels enjoying full occupancy thanks to the eclipse. Tamil Nadu Governor Surjit Singh Barnala also headed to Rameshwaram to offer prayers at a gurdwara.
Those who were not able to get accommodation in Rameshwaram spent Thursday night at hotels in nearby towns like Ramanathapuram and Madurai and travelled here early in the morning.
Most of the temples in Tamil Nadu, including the Nava Graha temples in Thanjavur district, were closed since morning except for the sun temple where special prayers and rituals were conducted.