Total solar eclipse wows millions

Darkness descended soon after dawn across large swathes of land along a narrow path stretching from Gujarat to Arunachal Pradesh as skywatchers experienced the longest total solar eclipse of the century on Wednesday morning.

The dark shadow of the moon -- the conical shaped umbra -- made its landfall in Gujarat at 6:30 a.m. and raced across the country within a span of a few minutes spreading darkness in the path of totality.

At many places a thick cloud cover dampened the spirits of skywatchers who had gathered to watch the celestial spectacle.

With the sun blanked out for six minutes and 39 seconds, this was the longest total solar eclipse to occur in the 21st century, and will not be surpassed in duration until June 13, 2132.

In Taregna in Bihar, touted as the best place to watch the eclipse, thousands of astro-enthusiasts were disappointed as clouds refused them a glimpse of the completely eclipsed sun.

However, in Taregna, and most parts of northeast where, clouds obscured the view of the sun, skywatchers were able to experience the eclipse as daybreak turned to night for a few minutes.

In Katni in Madhya Pradesh, stargazers enjoyed every moment of the celestial spectacle from atop the Circuit House Hills for a full three minutes from 6:22 a.m.

The group in Katni was awestruck as they saw the diamond ring phenomenon for a few seconds just before the sun was completely covered by the lunar shadow.

Some amateur astronomers were able to spot a few bright stars which became visible in the momentary darkness as the sun was completely covered giving them a magnificent view of the Corona.

In Delhi, clouds played hide-and-seek but still astro-enthusiasts gathered at several places got a glimpse of the sun. Eighty-three per cent of the sun dial was obscured by the moon. The crescent sun smiled upon the capital when the eclipse reached its maximum of 83 per cent at 6:26 a.m.

Lakhs of pilgrims took a dip in the sacred pond in Kurukshetra, in the Ganga at Varansi, Hooghly in Kolkata and Brahmaputra in Guwahati during the solar eclipse.

Scientists had chartered planes to carry out experiments and film the eclipse from above the clouds. A few well-heeled persons took to the skies in special flights to chase the lunar shadow and view the eclipse.

The path of totality passed over Bhavnagar, Surat, Ujjain, Indore, Bhopal, Sagar, Jabalpur, Varanasi, Allahabad, Gaya, Patna, Bhagalpur, Jalpaigudi, Guwahati, Dibrugarh and Itanagar.

In the ancient city of Varansi, scientists from the Bangalore-based Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA) could observe the eclipse in totality.

"As the day started there was an apprehension that eclipse may not be visible but as the sun rose the celestial phenomena was quite clearly visible," R C Kapoor, a senior official of the IIA said.


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