Thousands watch long solar eclipse | The Daily Star
11:00 PM, July 22, 2009 / LAST MODIFIED: 11:00 PM, July 22, 2009

Thousands watch long solar eclipse


A shot of the solar eclipse taken from the Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban yesterday morning. Photo: STAR

Thousands of people in Panchagarh witnessed the longest total solar eclipses of the 21st century at a local stadium yesterday, defying rain and a heavily overcast sky.
The district town has hardly ever seen a rare incident as attractive as the last total solar eclipse of this century yesterday.
Over 50,000 visitors and local enthusiasts cheered frantically as the totality instantly cast a veil of complete darkness at exactly 7:56am. But there were thousands of others who confined themselves in their houses, gripped by the myths about solar eclipses.
The spectacular show of nature lasted for three minutes and 58 seconds in Panchagarh. Scientists had predicted that Madhupara village of Haribhasa union in the district would have the clearest view of the eclipse.
However, clouds created a hindrance to the eager viewers--men, women and children who never looked away from the sky.
The eclipse lasted for as much as six minutes and 39 seconds at some places of the world and this duration will not be surpassed until June 13, 2132.
The next total solar eclipse to be visible from Bangladesh will occur on June 3, 2114.
A Hindu devotee of Madhupara village said according to Hindu fables, the eclipse is caused by a dragon-demon swallowing the sun.
But astronomers have a less threatening explanation, saying the orbital mechanics are just right for the moon to cover the sun completely casting a shadow on the Earth.
Brajendra Nath Roy, a villager from Deviganj upazila who came a long way to witness the event, said he and his companions were apprehensive of the cloudy weather, but it was still a unique experience to see "morning turning into night" for more than three minutes.
Rooms at all hotels in Panchagarh town had been booked weeks ago. The local administration opened up all its dormitories for the tourists from across the country. It appealed to residents of the district to open up their doors to the visitors.
The local stadium has been a centre for cultural activities for the last two days. Residents said they had never seen anything like this since the Liberation War in 1971.
Away from the town, hundreds of people camped at different tea gardens towards Tentulia to watch the eclipse. About 100 members of Bangladesh Astronomical Association camped at Moinaguri Tea Estate, 30km north of Panchagarh.
With dawn breaking at 5:30am, men and women lined up on a hill and waited for the moon to pass across the sun. As the clock approached eight o'clock an eerie silence engulfed the area. Suddenly the daylight started to disappear and a cool breeze began to blow. Birds flying overhead changed their direction, crickets chirped even louder as the eclipsed sun disappeared behind the round black shadow of the moon within seconds and darkness fell.
The totality of the eclipse was visible from cities like Surat, Varanasi, Patna, Thimphu, Chengdu, Hangzhou and Shanghai, and the Three Gorges Dam. A partial eclipse was seen from the much broader path of the moon's penumbra, including most of South East Asia and north-eastern Oceania.
A "total solar eclipse observation committee" was formed with Bishwa Sahitya Kendra, Liberation War Museum, Chhayanaut's educational initiative Nalanda, Samannito Shikkha-Sangskriti, Bangladesh Nature Study and Conservation Union, and Cosmic Culture to observe the eclipse. Science initiative Discussion Project coordinated the committee, which set up the main observation camp at Madhupara village and another at the South Plaza of Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban in Dhaka, said a press release.
With the help of BRB Cable Industries Ltd, the committee also set up observation camps at Bell's Park in Barisal, Akimuddin Library in Chapainawabganj, science and technology university campuses in Syedpur and Gazipur, Jahangirnagar University and Araj Ali Matubbar library at Dania in Dhaka.

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