Pitara Kids Network

‘Rim of Fire’ in Indonesian Skies: 2009’s First Solar Eclipse

Where: Samarinda, Indonesia

January 26, 2009 : The annular eclipse of the sun on Monday, 26 January was a celestial spectacle, seen in several parts of Indonesia, and on the Cocos, a South Pacific island group. These areas fell directly in line with the alignment of the moon and sun. People cheered and banged on drums as the moon moved slowly over the sun’s surface, until only a thin, blazing rim of fire could be seen. A partial eclipse was visible in southern parts of Africa, India, Southeast Asia, and Western Australia.

Hundreds of people watched the eclipse in Samarinda, the capital of Indonesia’s East Kalimantan province. At this location, more than 90 per cent of the sun’s diameter was covered. In the town of Anyer, the spectacle lasted for about four minutes. It is harmful to view an eclipse with the naked eye. Many people wore sunglasses, or looked at the reflection in buckets of water. The next total eclipse will occur on July 22, 2009. It be visible in India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar, China and some parts of Japan.

‘Annular’ comes from the word ‘annulus’ or ring. An annular eclipse occurs when the moon is at its farthest distance from the earth. The distance between the earth and the moon varies because of the moon’s elliptical orbit. The sun and the moon appear to be of the same size in the sky, but when the moon is at its farthest distance from the earth, it appears a little smaller than the sun. A solar eclipse occurring at this time is an annular eclipse, because the moon does not completely cover the sun as it does in a total eclipse. Instead, spectators on earth directly under the alignment of these two heavenly bodies can see the moon covering most of the sun’s surface, and a ring-like crown of light around the edge of the disk. This happens 66 times in a century.