India: Chasing a solar eclipse

On July 22, we are about to witness the longest solar eclipse of the 21st century. The eclipse will be visible between 5.20am to 7.40am, from within a narrow corridor spanning half the Earth.

In India, the path of the eclipse will cover the cities of Surat, Indore, Bhopal, Varanasi and Patna.

Image courtesy NASA

Image courtesy NASA

There is a huge amount of excitement in the country regarding this eclipse. Though Earthquakeforcasting says that eclipses in India are generally of interest to 4 segments of people – namely astronomers, astrologers, religious people and astro-tourists, it appears that most Indians will readily fit into atleast one of the above categories.

For Hindus, an eclipse is not only an astronomical event. It is deeply intertwined with religion and cultural beliefs; there are many myths associated with the eclipse. Astronomy India Blog tries to debunk a few of them here.

The travel and hospitality industry is all set to cash in on this excitement surrounding the eclipse.  Places within the eclipse corridor have all geared up to accomodate hordes of people arriving to catch a glimpse of the event. Goodread writes that even a small village like Taregana in Bihar is abuzz with preparations since it got listed by NASA as one of the best perches from where to get a good view of the total eclipse.

And talking of eclipse chasing, tour operators are also getting innumerable requests for chartering flights to observe this event from above the clouds. In fact,  as DesPardes India points out, a special eclipse flight is indeed being organised to offer this priviledge for a price of INR 75,000 (approx. USD 1560) – cost of a window seat on this 3hour long flight from Delhi.

Religious minded Hindus will gather at places of pilgrimage such as Varanasi, Kurukshetra (Haryana) etc., to take a dip in the river. The district administration of Haryana are expecting more than 10 lakh pilgrims and are also offering insurance cover  to pilgrims to guard against any possible mishaps.

If you are one of the lucky people going to view this rare celestial event, these moments of magic on July 22nd, please remember to take adequate eye safety measures.

Happy viewing!

Eclipse map courtesy F. Espenak & J. Anderson, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

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