Africa-Asia eclipse set to kick off astronomers' year

Jan 13, 2010
Indian school students Sarath and Roshan present a computer generated solar eclipse model at Kennedy High School in Hyderabad. The Planetary Society, India has organised a campaign to promote interest in space science by drawing attention to the upcoming January 15 eclipse.

For half the world, the Sun will be briefly reduced to a blazing ring surrounding a sombre disk on Friday, when an annular eclipse races from central Africa to eastern Asia, astronomers say.

The solar coverup, visible in a roughly 300-kilometre (185-mile) band running 12,900 kms (8,062 miles), will at one point set a duration record that will be unbeaten for more than a thousand years.

An annular occurs when the Moon passes directly in front of the Sun but does not completely obscure it, thus leaving a ring -- an annulus -- of sunlight flaring around the lunar disk.

According to NASA's eclipse website (, the Moon's shadow will strike the southwestern tip of Chad and western Central African Republic at 0514 GMT and then flit across Uganda, Kenya, and Somalia.

Its path then leads across the Indian Ocean, where the duration of "annularity" at 0706 GMT will be 11 minutes, eight seconds, making it "the longest annular eclipse of the 3rd Millennium," says .

Only on December 23, 3043 will this record be beaten.

The lunar umbra, or shadow, then zips across Bangladesh, India, Myanmar and China before expiring in the Shandong peninsula at 0859 GMT.

People in a broader path of the shadow, which includes eastern Europe, most of , Asia and Indonesia, will see a .

It will be the last annular for 29 months.

Compared to other years, the number of eclipses in 2010 is meagre although they provide an "interesting mix" for watchers, the US magazine Sky & Telescope says in its January issue.

Apart from Friday's event, the only coverup of the Sun this year will take place on July 11, when a total eclipse will cross the Pacific, visible notably from Easter Island, one of the world's remotest inhabited locations.

Total eclipses occur because of an unusual trick of celestial geometry.

The Sun is 400 times wider than the Moon, but it is also 400 times farther away. Because of the symmetry, the umbra, for those on the planetary surface, is exactly wide enough to cover the face of the Sun.

The orbits of the Earth and Moon are not completely circular, though. Tiny differences in distance explain why some eclipses are complete and others leave a thin ring of sunlight.

On December 21, 2010 -- solstice day -- there will be a total lunar eclipse, in which the full Moon will be covered completely by Earth's shadow for the first time in three years, according to Sky & Telescope.

Explore further: Mysteries of space dust revealed

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Cloud obscures annular eclipse

Oct 03, 2005

Clouds obscured an annular eclipse for most sky-gazers across Europe and Asia Monday as the moon passed in front of the sun.

Get Ready For Total Lunar Eclipse Wednesday Night

Feb 19, 2008

In the late night hours of Feb. 20, 2008, a total lunar eclipse will dazzle the night sky. And this lunar eclipse may be worth staying up for, because it will be the last one until December 2010.

See Total Solar Eclipse Tomorrow in a Different Light

Mar 28, 2006

A major astronomical event occurs Wednesday -- a total solar eclipse in which the moon's shadow blocks Earth-bound views of the sun from Brazil to Mongolia. In Wednesday's event, a total eclipse lasting up ...

A Solar Eclipse on the Moon

Apr 21, 2005

NASA is planning to send people back to the Moon. Target date: 2015 or so. Too bad they won't be there this Sunday because, on April 24th, there's going to be a solar eclipse, and you can only see it from ...

Recommended for you

Mysteries of space dust revealed

Aug 29, 2014

The first analysis of space dust collected by a special collector onboard NASA's Stardust mission and sent back to Earth for study in 2006 suggests the tiny specks open a door to studying the origins of the ...

A guide to the 2014 Neptune opposition season

Aug 29, 2014

Never seen Neptune? Now is a good time to try, as the outermost ice giant world reaches opposition this weekend at 14:00 Universal Time (UT) or 10:00 AM EDT on Friday, August 29th. This means that the distant ...

Informing NASA's Asteroid Initiative: A citizen forum

Aug 28, 2014

In its history, the Earth has been repeatedly struck by asteroids, large chunks of rock from space that can cause considerable damage in a collision. Can we—or should we—try to protect Earth from potentially ...

Image: Rosetta's comet looms

Aug 28, 2014

Wow! Rosetta is getting ever-closer to its target comet by the day. This navigation camera shot from Aug. 23 shows that the spacecraft is so close to Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko that it's difficult to ...

User comments : 0