Science & Technology

India to witness ‘Ring of Fire’ eclipse on June 21

The next solar eclipse, which will be a partial solar eclipse, will take place on October 25, 2022

 
By T V Venkateswaran
Last Updated: Friday 19 June 2020
The eclipse will be visible in Anupgarh, Suratgarh, Sirsa, Jakhal, Kurukshetra, Yamunanagar, Dehradun, Tapowan and Joshimath. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
The eclipse will be visible in Anupgarh, Suratgarh, Sirsa, Jakhal, Kurukshetra, Yamunanagar, Dehradun, Tapowan and Joshimath. Photo: Wikimedia Commons The eclipse will be visible in Anupgarh, Suratgarh, Sirsa, Jakhal, Kurukshetra, Yamunanagar, Dehradun, Tapowan and Joshimath. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

A rare celestial event, an annular solar eclipse popularly called as the ‘ring of fire’ eclipse, will be visible on June 21, 2020. The first solar eclipse of this year takes place on the summer solstice, which is the longest day in the Northern Hemisphere.

While people living along the path of the annular eclipse in Anupgarh, Suratgarh, Sirsa, Jakhal, Kurukshetra, Yamunanagar, Dehradun, Tapowan and Joshimath will be able to see the annular phase, people in the rest of India can witness a partial eclipse.

When the moon comes between the sun and the earth, the shadow falls on the surface of the earth. The sun is entirely covered by the moon for a brief period. Those places that are engulfed by the dark, dense umbral shadow of the moon, experience the total solar eclipse.

In the regions that plunge into the soft diffused penumbral shadow of the moon, a partial eclipse is witnessed. In all solar eclipses, the sun, moon and earth may not be perfectly aligned. In such situations, there is a partial eclipse. When the three celestial bodies happen to be in a straight line, there is a total solar eclipse.

“An annular solar eclipse is a particular case of the total solar eclipse. Like the total solar eclipse, the moon is aligned with the sun. However, on that day, the apparent size of the moon happens to be a wee bit smaller than the sun,” Samir Dhurde of The Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Pune, said. 

“Hence, the moon covers the central part of the sun, and the rim of the sun appears like a ‘ring of fire’ in the sky for a very brief moment,” he added. 

The distance between the earth and the moon at the moment of the eclipse can dictate the type of eclipse that will take place. The distance between the earth and the moon is always changing due to the egg-shaped elliptical orbit of the moon.

This means there are times where it is closer to the earth and appears slightly bigger in the sky. There are also moments where it is farther away and appears somewhat smaller in the sky. Coincidentally, during the eclipse that takes place on June 21, 2020, the apparent size of the moon is smaller than that of the sun by one per cent.

At the onset of the solar eclipse, the sun gives a characteristic appearance of a bitten apple. A small part of the sun is covered by the disc of the moon. After that, slowly and steadily, the disc of the moon embraces larger parts of the sun.

On a narrow track that the moon’s shadow traces on rarth during an annular solar eclipse, people can see the moon traversing on the sun and covering the central part. As the moon is not able to block out the entire sun, a bright ring of sunlight around the moon will be visible. This is how this type of eclipse earned the nickname the ‘ring of fire’ eclipse.

“If we miss this opportunity, in India, we have to wait for about 28 months for the next solar eclipse. The next solar eclipse, which will be a partial solar eclipse, will take place on October 25, 2022. It would be visible in the western part of India,” Aniket Sule, chairperson, public outreach and education committee of the Astronomical Society of India, said.

The sun is a very bright object, and looking at it directly can cause severe damage to the eye and vision. There are special goggles made for looking at the sun. These goggles filter the sunlight for safe viewing.

“Often, astronomical institutions / planetariums and other science popularisation agencies usually make arrangements for safe viewing of the eclipse. However, due to the lockdown this time, we are not able to make solar filters available. We strongly advise people not to gather in large numbers to view the eclipse given the pandemic situation. There are easy tips for viewing the eclipse from the safety of your home,” Arvind Paranjpye, Director, Nehru Planetarium, Mumbai, said.

Allaying rumours that the eclipse will mark the end of coronavirus,  Aniket Sule said, “Solar eclipse is caused when the moon comes in front of the sun for a short time. Eclipses occur somewhere on the Earth two to five times a year. Eclipses do not impact microorganisms on Earth. Likewise, there is no danger in eating or stepping out during an eclipse. No mysterious rays come out of the sun during an eclipse.” (India Science Wire)

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