On January 26, the year 2009 will experience its first solar eclipse. Greatest eclipse will be witnessed by those in the Indian Ocean and western Indonesia, while a partial eclipse will be experienced by those in the southern third of Africa, Madagascar, Australia. Partial phases of the eclipse will be visible from southern Africa, Australia, Southeast Asia and Indonesia.
To check if you will be able to see the eclipse from your city, check this PDF file for the circumstances of the solar eclipse across the world. All times are in Universal Time and you may have to convert to your local time. You can use this time converter.
NASA describes the solar eclipse as such:
The annular path begins in the South Atlantic at 06:06 UT when the Moon’s antumbral shadow meets Earth and forms a 363 kilometre wide corridor. Traveling eastward, the shadow quickly sweeps south of the African continent, missing it by approximately 900 kilometres. Slowly curving to the northeast the path crosses the southern Indian Ocean. Greatest eclipse takes place at 07:58:39 UT when the eclipse magnitude will reach 0.9282. At this instant, the annular duration is 7 minutes 54 seconds, the path width is 280 kilometres and the Sun is 73° above the flat horizon formed by the open ocean. The central track continues northeast where it finally encounters land in the form of the Cocos Islands and onward to southern Sumatra and western Java (Figure 2). At 09:40 UT, the central line duration is 6 minutes 18 seconds and the Sun’s altitude at 25°. In its final minutes, the antumbral shadow cuts across central Borneo and clips the northwestern edge of Celebes before ending just short of Mindanao, Philippines at 09:52 UT.
I converted the UT times in the NASA report and so, in Philippine time, the annular eclipse begins on January 26 at 2:06 PM. The shadow begins in the South Atlantic and slowly crosses to the southern Indian ocean.
Greatest eclipse, or the point when the distance between the Moon’s shadow axis and Earth’s geocentre reaches a minimum, is achieved by 3:58 PM. That means this is the point when the moon reaches its maximal covering of the sun. Greatest eclipse will have a duration of 7 minutes and 54 seconds.
At 5:40 PM Philippine time, the annular eclipse hovers above southern Sumatra and western Java. This will last 6 minutes and 18 seconds. The solar eclipse will end just short of Mindanao at 5:52 PM.
This paints a pretty dismal picture for the Philippines. It seems that we will not be able to see the solar eclipse at all if it ends before it even reaches Mindanao.
However, upon looking at the PDF file I mentioned earlier, the solar eclipse will be visible to Manila, Philippines at UT 8:55 or 4:55 PM. Malaysia will experience it earlier at UT 8:32 or 4:30 PM. Zamboanga, midpoint of Malaysia and Manila, will probably experience the solar eclipse somewhere between 4:30 and 4:55 PM.
Greatest eclipse will visit Manila, Malaysia and Zamboanga by 5:51 PM. Only Kuala Lumpur will see the solar eclipse end by 6:59 PM (sunset in KL is at 7:25 PM) because Zamboanga and Manila’s solar eclipse will be prematurely cut by dusk (sunset in Manila is at 5:52 PM and sunset in Zamboanga is 5:58 PM).
So, the last question on my mind is, will the weather conditions in Zamboanga permit me to have a cloudfree, fun solar eclipse experience? Ay, the answer might be no, what with these rainy days. Weather prediction for Zamboanga City on that day is scattered thunderstorms day and night. Oh noes. (Even Manila will fare only slightly better).
Still, you’ll see me camping out by Cawa-cawa on January 26, as early as 2 PM, just to be sure. (Okay, maybe not, midafternoon is pretty hot unless it’s a cloudy day.) And I’ll be there until sunset! (Okay, unless the rain chases me away.)
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The last time I experienced a solar eclipse was when I was 6 years old. That was the morning of March 18, 1988. I was so excited, and my whole family, my cousins and uncles and aunties, and most especially my dad. Everyone had been talking about it for days beforehand.
My dad, he prepared a big piece of glass for me, and taught me to rub charcoal all over it ’till it stained. He did the same thing for himself. Our neighbors were doing it too. And then we all collectively waited for the solar eclipse. It was like we were all holding our breath.
I remember feeling so giddy and scared and excited, waiting. And then it started, the shadow creeping at the edges of the sun. It was amazing, breathtaking. I held the tinted glass up against the sky and watched in awe. I will never forget that feeling of wonder, of magic.
It was such a beautiful, poignant moment in my life. And a very nice memory of my dad and how much I loved him…
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January 26 is going to be an amazing day! :-)