Watching the Eclipse
The world of pedantic textbooks came to spectacular life Wednesday July 22, 2009, as the morning sky darkened to night and the sun was reduced to a flaming rim of fire. Millions of people across Asia including Bangladesh and India watched the celestial play of moon and sun that, much to the disappointment of eclipse watchers, ducked behind clouds in many places.
Faith merged seamlessly with the wonders of science as the devout and the curious gathered on rooftops, Panchagarh Stadium and riverbanks and open grounds near the Indian border to watch the longest solar eclipse of the century in different places in Panchagarh district of the country. The spectacle, marred by a cloud cover in many places, lasted six minutes and 39 seconds in Japan but here in Panchagarh it lasted for 3.58 seconds. The next time it will take place will be 123 years later in 2132.
Tragedy always seems to accompany most celebrations these days. Two people were killed in a road accident while they were going to Panchagarh from Dinajpur while riding on a motor bike on their way to watch the Solar eclipse.
Before the eclipse started the Panchagarh district turned into a sea of humanity, and Panchagarh Deputy Commissioner officials said that at least 0.5 million people watched the eclipse from Panchagarh district for the longest time as Bangladesh Astronomical Society selected Panchagarh was the best place to watch the eclipse. On Wednesday, the overcast skies was a bit of a let down and the rare celestial event unfolded behind rain clouds. But the clouds did part momentarily, and for some that was enough.
“It was a memorable moment when I saw the skies dim into night in the early morning and the solar eclipse reached its totality,” said Azizar Rahman a young man from Haribhasha village under Panchagarh district.
|Crowds gather to witness the wondrous solar eclipse.
A cheer went up as the crowds that had given up on watching anything suddenly saw the eclipsed sun through the clouds. Clearing the cloud the eclipse was seen at 7.40am Wednesday morning. The most beautiful part of the eclipse was when the sun was completely covered by the moon and the corona became visible at 7.59am, forming a faint crown of pearly white light. Corona is the outer atmosphere of the sun, which is visible only during a total solar eclipse.
“It is completely fascinating and so beautiful to see. I thank God that I am lucky to witness this event,” said Narayan Chandra Roy, a Class 9 student. “It was a momentous event, a strange darkness enveloping the morning as crickets and birds chirped and stars became visible for a fleeting few minutes.”
For researchers it was an opportunity to study animal behaviour.
“Birds especially depend on the sun for orientation and direction and they will be completely disoriented during the brief blackout (of total eclipse),”
Birds suddenly stopped chirping while young animals rushed back to their shelters - no this is not a scene from “The Jungle Book”, but unusual behaviour shown by animals during the total solar eclipse Wednesday morning.
|The clouds parted momentarily to give a glimpse of one of nature's miracles.
These changes in behaviour in animals and birds were recorded by experts at the Van Vihar National Park in Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh during the celestial spectacle. India has been studying animal behaviour during solar eclipses. Twenty-three teams had been formed to study various animals and birds during the period of solar eclipse.
After the solar eclipse scientists at a press briefing said that they found the tigers, lions and panthers going off to sleep as the sun was completely obscured by the moon. They became very dull while some nocturnal animals like bears became hyper-active. Herbivorous animals like deer and sambar also behaved strangely.
Herbivorous animals, who generally graze separately during the day, suddenly came together in a herd and stood stationary during the eclipse. Even the birds that were chirping since dawn suddenly quietened during the total eclipse. Except peacocks and lapwings, all other birds were silent throughout the totality phase.
They found the behaviour of young animals most unusual as they usually set out of their night shelters early morning and return only at night. But during the total eclipse all of them came running back and hid inside their shelters.The body clock of animals and birds is generally regulated by sunrise and sunset and they were bound to show some reaction during the eclipse.
As for the humans who flocked to the sites to get the best view of the eclipse, they were just excited to get this rare opportunity to see for themselves one of nature's amazing miracles.
Kongkon Karmaker is The Daily Star's Dinajpur Corespondent.
(R) thedailystar.net 2009