Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Bhutan : Totality starts at 06:58

21 July, 2009: A few hours after the sun comes up tomorrow, darkness will descend, temperatures will drop and, for about four minutes, it will feel like night, even stars may be visible, as the moon completely eclipses the sun.

Bhutan is one of the few countries, apart from parts of India, China and the Marshall Islands in the Pacific, where one of nature’s grandest spectacles, the longest total solar eclipse of the 21st century, will be visible. As Bhutan falls in the path of the eclipse, the phenomenon can be seen from almost anywhere in the country.

The moon will start eating into the sun at around 5:58 am (Bhutan time), when the shadow of the moon starts falling somewhere in the Arabian Sea. The entire phenomenon will last for about two hours in Bhutan with the total eclipse or totality starting at 6:58 am. A total eclipse occurs when the moon completely blocks the sun.

Assuming that it is a clear cloudless day, totality will be visible from 6:58 am to 7:00:54 am, about three minutes duration. The southern part of the country should be able to see the eclipse for about four minutes, according to calculations by the national aeronautical space administration (NASA). The maximum totality, six minutes 39 seconds, can be seen from the Pacific Ocean.

A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon moves between the sun and the earth, blocking out the sun from the areas in the moon’s shadow. Without the sun’s light, the sky darkens enough for stars to be seen and the corona makes a spectacular halo around the moon.

Meanwhile, experts warn that it is not safe to directly look at the sun with the naked eye, particularly when the partial eclipse is occurring. NASA expert, Dr Donald M Hassler, who gave a talk on solar eclipse in Thimphu yesterday, said that directly looking at a partial eclipse, even for a short time, could permanently damage the eyesight. But it was safe to look at the sun when the total eclipse occurs although timing it could be complicated.

Dr Hassler said that, on the day of the eclipse, there would be unusual and strange happenings that could be interesting to observe. “As the eclipse starts, you’ll notice a gradual drop in temperature and, at total eclipse, the sun will be one million times dimmer than its usual shine,” said Dr Hassler. “Animals will start behaving like they do at nightfall as the ‘moon starts biting the sun’.” Shadows of objects, like the leaves of trees, during partial eclipse will also bear crescent shape shadows.

Traditional Bhutanese belief is that a supernatural animal is attacking the sun or the moon during an eclipse. The Bhutanese language for eclipse, Za, also means, “to eat”. It is a common tradition to beat drums and blow trumpets or beat dogs, so that the cacophony frightens the Za into leaving the sun or the moon.

Dr Hassler, who described the phenomenon as a treat in the sky, distributed 800 solar filter glasses to students of Yangchenphug higher secondary school and others, who attended his talk at the royal institute of health and sciences.

The total solar eclipse tomorrow corresponds to 30th day of the 5th month of the lunar calendar (nam gang). The director of the National Museum in Paro, Khenpo Phuntshok Tashi, in an article said that the period provides a “rare and special opportunity for Buddhist lamas to practice and dedicate positive blessings for the world through meditation, recitation, and performance of pujas”.

“I’m particularly worried about how I might be able to control my children from looking at the partial eclipse,” said a parent, who attended Dr Hassler’s talk. The BBS plans to telecast live the rare phenomenon.

by Ugyen Penjore

Tag : bhutan,thimpu,bhutan king,bhutan tour,bhutan news

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