Evolution of the Eclipse

1980 Eclipse
1980 Eclipse

Having witnessed 5 solar eclipses, one of which was a totality – over a period of 14 years, and having read about the one from 1980, I am going to try and chronicle how the eclipse viewing has changed over the past 29 years.

The photo at the top shows a normally busy income tax office square in an Indian city bereft of any people during the eclipse of 1980.

1980 1996 2009
TV Showed a movie to keep people indoors Showed a live telecast of the eclipse Let people just watch on their own, nothing special
People Stayed indoors mostly. Only the scientists watched the eclipse. It was quite a people event, the educated watched the superstitious didn’t Everyone watched! Right from the bathing sadhus to the city dwellers
Advise by the ophthalmologists Don’t watch! Not even with filters. Don’t watch! Not even with filters. Forgotten
Media Newspaper Newspaper / TV Newspaper / TV / Web / Flickr
Astrologers Spreading doomsday Spreading doomsday Spreading doomsday

In 1980, the eclipse was watched in 15 eclipse camps – it was a first in 82 years. Some interesting news items from that time:

  • No let up in rituals. Normally people try to ward off the harmful effects of the eclipse by putting pieces of ‘Durva’ into food items like milk, butter, ghee and drinking water.
  • With the repeated warnings of all the mass media still ringing in their ears, the elite class didn’t dare to have a direct look at the eclipsed sun.
  • ‘It was simply beautiful’ said an observer in Taita hills, Kenya. ‘We had 3 minutes 50 seconds of totality’. ‘The elders say we should go inside’ said Henry Kazungu 28, a member of the rat eating Giriama tribe. ‘But I want to stay out and see it. I want to be able to say later that this great thing happened in this year and I was there’.

Some news items from the 1995 eclipse:

  • The council of astrologers: “The sun signifies the rulers. Thus in the region where the total solar eclipse will be visible the heads of the governments will be adversely affected.”
  • With barely three days left for the solar eclipse, a serious controversy among scientists and ophthalmologists has put the West Bengal government in a quandary and the people in a fix.
  • One publication showed a photo of an elephant at Yamuna Ghat waiting patiently for the sun to be freed from its lunar embrace so that it could have a holy dip.
  • Unlike in 1980, millions of people watched the event last fortnight, turning it into a mass science festival.

From 2006:

  • Schoolchildren clapped and cheered as the first total eclipse in years plunged Ghana into daytime darkness, a solar show sweeping northeast from Barzil to Mangolia.

In 2009, the clincher was a photo in one of the national dailies showing the bathing sadhus wearing solar goggles and watching the eclipse. Flickr also made a world of difference: we could see various cultures in various countries trying to watch the eclipse, and interpreting it in their own ways.


Solar Eclipse 22nd July 2009

Eclipse time again. These celestial happenings are among the most watched in the world, and I like to watch them too. Some photos:


More photos below, click to enlarge:


When viewed from the Earth, the apparent size of the sun and the moon is the same. If the sun were smaller, the Bailey’s beads would not occur, and if the moon were smaller – the eclipse wouldn’t be total. Yes, I know it won’t always be like this: the moon will keep moving away from the other and in several years the apparent size will be smaller so total eclipses won’t occur. For the moment though, is it a coincidence or did Mother Nature design it like this?

Eclipse teaches us that naturally, there is no one who can reign supreme all the time. When the sun shows up, the stars & the moon are gone: defeated. There comes one day when the little moon eclipses the mighty sun. So I see a lesson there from nature.

I have also a post on the eclipse of 2008, and a collection of various eclipse photos showing both lunar and solar eclipses.


Eclipse 1 Aug 2008

I just now watched and photographed the solar eclipse from New Delhi in India. Here we had only a partial view.

Ok, here is the much awaited photograph:

Eclipse 1st Aug 2008
Eclipse 1st Aug 2008

The sun shining on the right is a photograph of the overall scene where I was. Eclipses continue to entice me – I have been avidly following them since 1995 when I saw a total solar eclipse in Ranchi. Even the birds seemed confused when the sun rays were blocked.

Here is computer colored image that shows a total solar eclipse in its full glory.

In Hindu mythology, Arjuna vowed to kill Jaidhrath before Sunset, else he would commit suicide. The opponents made Jaidhrath to hide thinking that since Arjuna would be unable to find him, he wouldn’t kill him and would have to commit suicide. However, on the day of the battle, towards the evening, a total solar eclipse occurred and everybody thought the day has ended. Jaidhrath came out of the hiding thinking that Arjuna would commit suicide. At just that moment the eclipse ended, the sun shone brightly and Arjuna, realising that the day is not yet over, killed Jaidhrath.

I have a collection of Eclipses (both Lunar and Solar) from many different sources – some my own and others from magazines.


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