We were cheated out of the first total solar eclipse of the millenium. While not grudging the people of Africa their wonderful total Solar eclipse, we may yet rejoice that, a solar eclipse at any point on Earth is usually accompanied by a Lunar eclipse visible over a wider region on Earth, either at the preceding or the succeeding new moon day. That’s what is happening now, and on the 5th of July, a partial lunar eclipse will be visible from India. The geographical regions where the Lunar eclipse will be visible are shown in the map below. Also shown is the exact geometry in which the shadow of the Earth is partially falling on the Moon at this time. Earth’s umbral shadow, large enough to cover the entire moon for a couple of hours, misses it this time, due to a glancing pass over the face of the moon, thereby resulting in a partial Lunar eclipse. In the recent past, India missed witnessing many a partial eclipse of the Moon, the last partial one visible from India having occurred during August 1990. The next partial Lunar eclipse visible from India will be in October 2005.
As shown in the map, all of India, its neighbourhood and east Africa will witness the eclipse at Moon rise, while Australia and Newzealand regions will witness it completely when the Moon is higher on their horizons. Most of the Americas, and Europe will miss this eclipse.
Moon rise: 7:19 PM on 5/7/2001
Moon set: 4:59 AM 6/7/2001
Partial phase of the eclipse begins: 7:10 PM
Time of maximum eclipse: 8:28 PM
Partial phase of the eclipse ends: 9:47 PM
No sophisticated instruments will be needed to view the eclipse. Just find a place nearby with unrestricted view towards the eastern horizon and then plead with the cloud and pollution demons to oblige with a clear view towards this horizon!
Well, we have missed the Solar eclipse of June 21st and the visibility of the 5th July Lunar eclipse is somewhat doubtful, what with the monsoons and the fact that the eclipse is set for Moon rise for India, which will place the Moon plumb at the horizon at the time of the eclipse. Last year, the total Lunar eclipse of 16th July was a total washout for the same reason, while the midnight Lunar eclipse of January this year was seen so clearly. Our Lunar eclipse viewing prospects are not good till the year 2004 when another late night eclipse may be seen overhead on the 5th of May of that year. The next Lunar eclipse visible from here will be in November 2003, but, we will get to see only some of the action, early in the morning, just before Moonset – most of it takes place after the Moon would have set for India. The next Total Solar Eclipse that will be visible from India will be on the morning of 22nd July, 2009. Here is a map of the regions where that will be visible.
A total Solar eclipse being the most spectacular event that one may possibly witness in one’s lifetime, it will be well worth the long wait!
(The eclipse information has been compiled from the NASA eclipse bulletins issued by Fred Espenak and Jay Anderson)
written by - N. Rathnasree, Director, Nehru Planetarium, Teen Murti House, New Delhi –110011.