Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A Celestial Marvel !

It’s not often that you find me wide awake in the early hours of the morning. It only happens if I have to catch some early-morning train. Or for an all important match on the telly. Maybe even during exam days. But otherwise, catching me in the best of form when the sun is just about up is as nearly rare, if not equally, compared to a solar eclipse. And that was exactly what got me up and about today morning. I’m just back after witnessing another one of the numerous celestial events that I’m so crazy about. This time it was a total solar eclipse yet again.

After all the hype and drama on the countless news channels that we are now almost used to, the day finally arrived. I was actually waiting for it for some days now. And so, I made it a point to set an alarm to go off at five in the morning (which is usually comparable to midnight according to my biological clock).

I instantly tuned into a couple of news channels for the updates on my laptop. The countdown on NDTV showed 14:35 minutes. So, I just moved out onto the terrace to check if the sun was out yet. And more importantly, if there were any clouds around which would greatly upset my plans.
Thankfully, there wasn’t even a single cloud in sight (which wouldn’t have been a welcome sight on any other day in these times of badly needed rains) but neither was the sun. So, that gave me time to get my cameras ready.

Well, I am as much an admirer of simplicity as of advanced technology. So, I had both a pin-hole camera along with a digital camera ready for the event. I don’t know if you have ever experienced it, but the old and simplest of gadgets which are based on basic scientific principles provide the best results. And a pin-hole camera is a great example.

The countdown had reached to four minutes or so when I suddenly heard something in the form of a commotion outside. It appeared as if all the crows from the neighborhood accompanied by all their visiting relatives had all of a sudden decided that their vocal sacs (birds lack vocal cords) needed some urgent exercise. My first reaction was the thought that the horde of the hooligan monkeys was back to cause nuisance. But as I looked out to check, there were none.

And then I observed that the birds, which had woken up on time and were out on work as efficiently as ever, had realized that something was unusual. They couldn’t actually decide if really it was once again the time to get back home so soon. Maybe they were so panicky, they were shouting at each other to decide on to what action needed to be taken.

The sun by this time was up enough to be seen above the houses around ours. Here’s how it looked like as it emerged from behind the buildings.

The sun appearing from behind the buildings !As I checked the news again, it was already eclipsed to about a quarter in Guwahati. And so I positioned the pin-hole camera and observed the image. It was already cut to almost half. To my amazement, I could see some people in the neighborhood. Two people on their respective terraces (one of whom was sort of busy in the daily routine of exercises), the newspaperwalla throwing those rolled newspapers onto balconies and over gates, and a man walking (maybe on his morning walk) on the road. This was very much in contrast to the last time we had a total solar eclipse way back in 1995 (or was it 1996 ??) when I was the only one on my terrace around a neighborhood that looked as if put under curfew.

But I couldn’t see any of the stray dogs which are otherwise always around our street and more so around our house (as I often give them something to bite). Almost all of the birds had vanished. Except for the three brown fakhtas (country doves) sitting on the power cables which were still so confused to decide whether to return or not.

The sunlight was feeble by now. Just as it is at the time of sunset, but it felt very different. The pin-hole camera was showing the sun in almost a crescent.

Image from the pin-hole cameraI tried taking pictures of the sun with the digital camera. But it was still bright enough to glare, refusing to be caught being eclipsed by the moon on cam. Luckily, a few of the snaps caught an added reflection of the eclipsed sun besides the bright glare.

Too much glare even from the crescent !
Wide angle shotAlmost totally eclipsed ! In almost within a minute or two, the sun was a mere crescent. Just as the moon appears on Eid.

The acute crescent in the pin-hole camera
Getting out of the eclipse ! I checked the news again. The channels were showing pictures of the total eclipse as seen in parts of China and many cities in India. But what was so irritating was the emphasis on the astrological aspect of it (if there really is one). There were those big fat jyotishis sitting almost on each news channel and blabbering about the things not to do on the day of the eclipse. Also adding about the ways one can escape the ‘wrath’ of the eclipse.

More than showing the actual visuals of the eclipse, they were happy to provide those where people had gathered to take a dip in the holy waters, to pray, to donate food, clothes, even cows…. !!! Even for once, they didn’t talk about what new studies the scientists were planning to carry out during this eclipse. So I shifted my attention to NASA’s official eclipse website.

By then, the light had started to get normal once again, and some of the birds had started to appear too. The crow which now sat on the edge of my terrace was giving a look to his partner as if saying, “I told you so….”


  1. Brilliant pics dude!

    It was forecasted that the eclipse would be seen very well in Bihar, but unfortunately, massive rain clouds decided to show up exactly when the eclipse was abt to happen! It rained thruout the period of the eclipse, and the clouds cleared as soon as the moon moved out!

    I woke up early too, but not to watch the eclipse... I don't have any provision here of creating a reflection of the eclipsed sun in anyway... but I wanted to do some chanting. Lot of Reiki people have told me that any mantra-chants done during any eclipses (among several other shubh-muhurats) manifest the power of that chanting 1000 times over! So I was up early too... sitting with my jap-maala... and chanting... while the clouds refused to budge outside!

  2. Ohhh... That's too bad you missed it. Happened to me twice during two partial eclipses before this one. But got lucky this time. :D

    Hope you get lucky the next time.



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