Jul 2

WHEN THE MOON EMBRACES THE SUN – SOLAR ECLIPSE

The total solar eclipse is just around the corner – 2nd July and we are just waiting for the world to be plunged into darkness! An eclipse of the Sun occurs whenever the Moon is aligned between the Earth and the Sun. The celestial alignment causes the Moon to partially or completely obscure the Sun’s glowing face. This can happen because the Moon appears to be approximately the same size as the Sun when viewed from Earth. And as a result, the Moon casts its shadow on the planet and embraces it to briefly turn day into night. This natural phenomenon, extremely extraordinary and it continues to fascinate many people around the globe. Being considered “Nature’s Greatest Coincidence”, they have an irrevocable effect on people and are a symbol of beauty. The cause is so simple and uncomplicated that it is difficult to imagine what terror was caused by such a phenomenon before knowledge of astronomy showed how it arose.

In ancient times, people did not consider eclipses to be in the natural order of things, but some­thing monstrous, predicting terrible disasters. It was considered a taboo to view eclipses and till now, in many parts of the world people are not allowed to look directly at the solar eclipse. Astronomers can estimate when the moon will come between the earth and the sun, and so can predict with accuracy when an eclipse will take place and how long it will last.

Eclipses of the sun are a great boon to astronomers, because when the sun itself is blotted out from sight by the dark mass of the moon, the sun’s corona which was invisible to us in full sunlight, finally becomes visible, and can be analyzed by the telescope, and its composition determined by the spectroscope. The almost instantaneous glooming of the sun, particularly when it is blotted for, is destined to impress a spectator with vague terror; even when expected, it fills the mind with awe and astonishment. The sudden darkness is majestic from its oddity, as much as from occurring by day; it resembles neither the darkness of night nor the gloom of twilight. The cone of the moon’s shadow, though it completely encompasses the spectator, does not engulf the whole atmosphere above his horizon.

Accordingly, the mass of unenclosed catches the sunlight, and reflects it into the region of the total eclipse, making there a queer twilight. Stars and planets appear, and all animals are dismayed by the uncanny aspect of nature.

The next total eclipse of the Sun which is scheduled for the evening hours of Tuesday, July 2, UK time is highly awaited by the mass. The eclipse will peak around 7.24pm UTC. According to NASA, totality will last around four minutes and 33 seconds, making it almost twice as long as the 2017 eclipse. It will be visible over parts of South America, kicking off directly over the Pacific Ocean on July 2. The countries where the total solar eclipse will be best visible are from Chile and Argentina but partial eclipsing will be seen in Ecuador, Paraguay, Uruguay and Peru. Some eclipsing of the Sun will also be apparent to small parts of Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela and Panama.

The upcoming total eclipse will witness the sun in the constellation of Gemini, the Twins. Venus will the most conspicuous object in the sky when the sky becomes very dark. On this upcoming occasion, Venus, shining at magnitude -3.9, will be situated 12 degrees to the lower left of the sun, very low above the west-northwest horizon. The next brightest object will be almost diametrically opposite to Venus and sitting just above the east – southeast horizon: the planet Jupiter, at magnitude -2.6. The other two planets will be shining well to the upper right of the totally eclipsed sun: Mercury and Mars. Mercury will be the brighter of the two, shining at magnitude +1.3.

Among the stars, Sirius, the brightest of all will be glowing about one-third of the way up from the western horizon. And about halfway up in the southwest part of the sky, the yellowish-white Canopus – second in brightest only to Sirius – will gleam.

Skywatchers who look about halfway up in the southeast part of the sky will see yellow-orange Alpha Centauri and bluish Beta Centauri, as well as the four stars that comprise the famous Southern Cross.

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