Jan 28

THE RING IN THE SKY – AN AMAZING EXPERIENCE

How did I get Inspired to see eclipses?

Life is more interesting when you do things which have not done by you before. For me, one such thing was witnessing Eclipse for the 1st time. I have never seen an eclipse in my life until I joined SPACE Chennai and here comes my first experience of observing an eclipse.

It was 16th July 2019, SPACE Chennai team went to Yelagiri along with 150 students for the partial lunar eclipse as a part of “Eclipse Chasers Expedition”. It was a wonderful experience to observe the moon getting into the shadow of the Earth and how beautiful it was to see the full moon slowly becoming partial. In fact, I captured the eclipsed moon for the first time and here is the picture I clicked during that night.

After the partial lunar eclipse, I searched the internet to know about the upcoming eclipses from India and that is when I found that India is going to witness an Annular Solar Eclipse after 9 years on the 26th December 2019 in which we will see a huge Ring of Fire in the sky. I knew I had to observe and capture this beautiful phenomenon and was lucky that the centerline is going to pass from southern India, not too far from Chennai.

At last December arrived and so the clouds and I got a feeling that it would be very difficult to observe eclipse this month as it generally remains cloudy here but it was worth the risk. Our office decided to observe the eclipse from the best possible places along the center line with the least cloud cover. I was very eager and I didn’t want to miss this beautiful opportunity due to clouds and I wanted to go and capture it.

I was super excited and lucky to know that I was chosen to go to Manapparai near Trichy where the Centre line of eclipse lies along with some students to witness the ring of fire. I started my training and planning to make the best of it.

Solar Eclipse Expedition to Manapparai:

25th December 2019 – Myself along with some students started our trip towards Manapparai and we reached the venue a day before the eclipse to plan our observation and see the observation site thoroughly. We also had planned for star gazing and deep sky object hunting.

When we reached there, it was too cloudy and we were very much disappointed since no celestial objects seen in the sky. I don’t have any belief in God generally but that day I did pray that tomorrow our skies remain clear. We went to sleep by 11.30 PM, hoping for the best. The eclipse was supposed to start at 8:07 AM.

26th December 2019 – The next morning, I woke up early to check the weather and it was totally cloudy again. I was a disappointment but hopeful and I went to get ready.

Early morning at 5.30, I came out from my room and saw the weather again and I was happy that the northeast part of the sky seems clear and the sun was about to rise so we decided to set our cameras towards the sunrise. I asked students to be ready with the equipment to observe the eclipse and I set the frame of the camera towards sunrise and the result was the picture which I attached below.

Capturing the “RING OF FIRE”:

Done with sunrise and we had to wait for the eclipse for an hour and by that time, we were setting up our cameras to capture eclipse by various methods.

  1. The direct method by adding a solar filter with a camera,
  2. Solar Eclipse rising trail
  3. Eclipse as seen through the telescopic projection method.

Participants briefed about the annular solar eclipse to the public and broke the myths of eclipses thereby explaining the science behind the eclipses – The Game of Shadows. Participants were also briefed about the harm of observing the sun directly and unsafe methods. People were also briefed about safe methods to observe eclipses like a telescope with a solar filter, telescope projection method, pin-hole projector, and solar view goggles.

It was 8.05 AM and the sky was completely clear. The eclipse was about to start. We were waiting for the first point of contact and it happened at 8.07 AM everyone started observing the partial solar eclipse and by 9.32 AM the maximum eclipse occurred it was a beauty from nature as the “Luna” came in front of the “Sol”.

It was a delight to watch the annularity as an astronomer and the excitement & joy to capture my first Ring of fire as an astrophotographer was amazing.

I could believe that I didn’t just witness the eclipse but I stored it in my mind and camera forever.

After three long hours of eclipse, it ended by 11.15 AM and I captured the eclipse in all the methods which I planned. The pictures are attached at the end.

It was a memorable experience to view both the eclipses in a short period in just one year and I’m lucky enough to capture the game of shadows. I would like to thank my team for giving me the wonderful opportunity to witness and capture the great ring of fire. Without my team, this was not possible for me and they helped me in various circumstances not only in this expedition but also in learning astronomy and space science.

A penumbral lunar eclipse was accompanied after the solar eclipse on 10th Jan 2020, which again I witnessed and captured.

Looking forward to the next eclipse which is again an annular solar eclipse at 21st June 2020.

Ring of Fire
Eclipse Progression Sequence
Eclipse Progression Sequence
Annular Eclipse Trail
Projection Method
Penumbral Lunar Eclipse – 10th Jan 2020

Blog by,

Ranjith Kumar. E

Educator, SPACE Chennai

Date: 22/01/2020

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