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Eclipse Information

Clarifying some of the misinformation that seems to be making the rounds in the media, here is some information about the New Year’s Eve Lunar Eclipse and the Annular Solar Eclipse of the 15th of January, which will be the longest duration solar eclipse of this century.

(It is a matter of concern that media is reporting very incorrect news and also pandering to superstitions, by giving nonsensical information given out by astrologers, who do not even have the correct astronomical information about the eclipse, though they authoritatively give bogus information about people’s and nations’ future)

The New Year’s Eve Lunar Eclipse

There is a Lunar eclipse occurring on the night of Dec 31 and early morning of the 1st of January. However, unlike what some of the media is saying, based on misinformation from astrologers, it is not a Total Lunar Eclipse. It is a very marginally visible Partial Lunar Eclipse – the umbral shadow of the Earth only just grazes the limb of the Moon. Such an eclipse of the Moon will be difficult to discern with the naked eye – although an astrophotograph of the Moon might just show a hint of darkening over a very tiny region of the Moon.

The timings of the eclipse are the following: (the timings will be the same for all locations from where the eclipse is visible, which are, all of Asia and Europe, major parts of Africa and small portion of south western Australia.

Start of the Penumbral Eclipse : 10:47:08 PM IST December 31st 2009

(This phase cannot be discerned while looking at the Moon)

Start of the Partial Eclipse : 00:22:43 AM IST January 1st 2010

End of the Partial Eclipse : 01:22:41 AM IST

(Although the partial phase of the eclipse lasts for an hour, only 7% of the diameter of the Moon is covered by the umbral shadow of the Earth – too negligible to be easily visible)

End of Penumbral Eclipse : 02:58:11 AM IST

So, all in all, the eclipse is not of interest for general viewing amongst the New Year;s even revelry. It will be of interest only if the amount of light coming from the Moon is actually measured quantitatively – then and only then, the penumbral eclipse and the small partial phase of the eclipse, can be discerned.

Typically, solar eclipses are either preceded or followed by a lunar eclipse, with a typical separation of about 15 days before the lunar eclipse and the solar eclipse. This is a very common phenomenon arising from geometry of orbits, and not at all unusual, as it is made out to be, by some astrologers.

The Annular Solar Eclipse of the 15th of January 2010

The annular solar eclipse of the 15th of Januray 2010, on the other hand, is of intrinsic interest. It will be the longest duration Annular Solar Eclipse of this century, just as the July 2009 eclipse was the longest duration Total Solar Eclipse of this century.

When the Moon far enough away from the Earth, (its distance from Earth varies due to the ellipticity of its orbit around the Earth) that its angular size appears a little smaller than the angular size of the Sun, and a central eclipse happens at such times, the Moon does not cover the whole disk of the Sun at the maximum eclipse and an outer ring of the Sun remains visible – like a beautiful ring of fire. Such an eclipse is known as an annular eclipse and India did not see the annularity of a solar eclipse since 1976, when the annularity of the eclipse was visible only from the very North East parts of Jammu and Kashmir.

The parts of India shown lying between the blue lines in the map below, will see the annularity of the January 15th eclipse, while all the remaining parts of the country will see the partial phases of this annular solar eclipse:

Path of the Annularity of the January 15th eclipse cutting across southern parts of India. Note that the southern regions of Mizoram, also fall within the annularity belt.

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Page last modified on December 30, 2009, at 05:46 AM EST