Cloudy skies mar clear vision of eclipsing sun

ABU DHABI/ DUBAI — It was a visual treat for astronomy enthusiasts in Abu Dhabi as they witnessed the rare phenomenon of the moon eclipsing the sun by a maximum of 32.4 per cent in the UAE yesterday.

By Anjana Sankar And Zaigham Ali Mirza

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Published: Thu 30 Mar 2006, 10:09 AM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 1:48 PM

Though the sun played hide and seek until around 3pm with cloudy skies marring a clear sighting, the partial solar eclipse was visible at its peak at 3.19pm and lasted until 4pm.

Residents and families, including children who had gathered at the Cultural Foundation from 2pm onwards said they were excited to get a glimpse of the eclipsed sun. "I have seen it before. But I am here for my son, Hafeef who has to learn about eclipses in his science text book," said Mariam, a housewife.

Hafeef, who studies in the fourth grade, said he did not want to miss the phenomenon as it will give him a better understanding of the concept. "My teacher has taught me this. I think it will be great fun to watch how moon eats up the sun," enthused Hafeef.

Sandeep and his friend Thomson were there because they said it was a 'must watch' phenomenon. "People had lot of misconceptions and superstitions about eclipse in the earlier days. But now, every one understands that it is a pure scientific phenomenon as scientists around the world were keeping a close watch on it. So how can one miss it when one has the chance to watch it?" asked Sandeep, who is on a visit to the UAE.

Members of the Astronomy Amateurs Society at the Abu Dhabi-based Emirates Heritage Club monitored the eclipse with astronomical apparatus, while the public was given special glasses to protect their eyes from the rays.

The Society had also issued warnings to the public not to look directly at the eclipsed sun by the naked eye as the infra-red and ultra-violet lights could cause serious eye damage and possible blindness.

Though UAE and the region could witness only partial solar eclipse, the total eclipse was visible from within a narrow corridor, which traversed half the earth. According to astronomers, the Moon's shadow began in Brazil and extended across the Atlantic, northern Africa, and Central Asia, where it ended at sunset in Western Mongolia. A partial eclipse was seen within much broader path of the Moon's shadow, that included the northern two thirds of Africa, all of Europe and Central Asia including the UAE.

However, most people across Dubai and in the Northern Emirates could not view the event because of the heavy cloud cover. A large number of people were also unaware of the event, while a majority of those who did know of it, especially from the subcontinent, avoided going out because of their superstitious beliefs.

Despite the coverage the event has received on television and in newspapers internationally, the eclipse did not attract much attention in the emirates. Except for a few enthusiasts, mostly amateurs or astronomy buffs, the event passed largely unnoticed even among school and college students.

According to an enthusiast, the low level of enthusiasm speaks volumes about the lack of curiosity in the young generation.

Commenting on the various superstitions related to eclipses and other celestial events, an amateur astronomer said that, left on their own, the astrologers would not even be able to predict lunar or solar eclipses, the comings of a comet, or a meteor shower; but they readily sell their "knowledge" on how these events "affect" people's lives.

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