Dr Uma Ramachandran, President, the Breakthrough science society, Tamil Nadu chapter, says, “We have devoted to setting up arrangements for the last two months in several places all over Tamil Nadu including Anna University residential complex, Jain Green acres, Pallavaram, Besant Nagar beach etc. We (Breakthrough science society) have also distributed close to I lakh solar filters all over India and 4,000-5,000 in Chennai alone, among schools and colleges. We had a telescope set up at Periyar science and technology centre. Anna University had a wall-mirror set-up for public viewing. We have also tried to debunk the myths through a book brought out on the occasion of this solar eclipse."
As city witnessed the celestial event of the moon passing between the sun and the earth and forming the spectacular ring of fire, DC gets talking to people from various walks of life to catch you the essence of the phenomenon.
Dr Divya Oberoi, a faculty member at the National Centre for Radio Astrophysics who took this as a golden opportunity to conduct a study, explains, “It won't be possible to do it at other times. The study is to look for the presence of very tiny sources on the surface of the sun. Under usual circumstances, one will need a telescope which is almost 1,000 kms long. The larger the size of the telescope, the smaller objects it is able to see. During the eclipse time, because of the principal of diffraction, the moon crosses the sun, which allows you to look for the tiny sources on the surface of the sun. We observed it with the Ooty radio telescope and a giant metrewave radio telescope in a place 85 kms from Pune. “
Why is the study important? “I'm looking to draw an analogy with regard to the stars at night. When you look at the starts at night, there are a lot of turbulences which don’t let you understand the original size of the star. A regular telescope enlarges the actual size of the star. Similarly, a lot of scattering takes place in the Corona of the sun, which makes the size of the sources larger than what their intrinsic size is. Our current understanding of the Corona suggests that such small sources should not exist because their size must have become bigger due to the turbulence in the Corona. However evidence suggests sometimes such small sources actually exist and my study is trying to verify that,” he says.
TV Venkateswaran, a science communicator with the Vigyan Prasar, explains why it is called the annular solar eclipse,”The sun is near the closest point and the apparent size is about 1951 arc seconds. The Moon, on the other hand, is not near its nearest location and thus its apparent magnitude is about 1893 arc seconds. The smaller moon is not able to obstruct the whole disc of the sun.”
George Joseph an RTD scientist and nuclear physicist who is also the secretary of Breakthrough science society, Tamil Nadu chapter explains why the celestial event was witnessed in southern India after a staggering gap of 75 years. “There was an annular solar eclipse on Jan 15, 2010 that entered India at Trivandrum and exited at Rameswaram. Then it entered Sri Lanka at Deft island and exited at Jaffna and after crossing the Bay of Bengal, it again entered India in Mizoram and proceeded to Burma and ended in China. In South India it lasted for a very short time.”
Chennai-based business lawyer Satyan Babu talks about certain beliefs associated with the celestial event. “Darbai is widely used for performance of religious rituals. The popular belief is if you keep one or two darbai in food and milk, water and curd, the food won’t be spoilt due to the eclipse. Remove the darbai once eclipse is over.” He also believes one should not take bath or do any puja during the eclipse but one is allowed to recite mantras such as Om namasivaya or Om narayana. “It is believed the body becomes impure during the eclipse time; so one should take bath right after and wear clean clothes.”
Celebrity astrologer Balaji Haasan talks from the astrology perspective. He cautions, “People belonging to Ashwini, Arudra, Magha, Jyeshtha, Moola and Purva Ashada nakshatras are going to bear the maximum adverse effects of the annular solar eclipse for the next 15 days. Especially the ones born in Ashwini nakshatra will experience headache, migraine and some mental disturbance. They may suffer a memory loss too. Since Sagittarius is the 9th house which is a place of religion, several religious leaders will go through huge turmoil. India and especially the capital will go through some uneasiness for the next 15 days. Former heads of state or heads of government across the world need to check on their health.”
Gururag Kalanidhi, a city-based marketing professional, regrets not being able to go for the public viewing. “I viewed the moon passing the sun through an old X-ray sheet. One fact that very few people know is when you look at the ground during the eclipse time, you’ll see small circles similar to an image of the moon crossing the sun - these are the rays coming through the leaves and forming the eclipsed sun’s image.”
“It was spectacular to watch the eclipsed sun’s shadow falling on the ground”, said Nirmala Jagadisan, a city-based chartered accountant from Mylapore.