MUSCAT: Less than six months since the last significant astronomical event in the Sultanate, a rare annular solar eclipse, when the Moon covers the Sun, leaving the outer edge of the Sun exposed, creating what is known as a ‘ring of fire,’ otherwise known as an annulus, around the Moon, and casting a shadow on the Earth. June 21st beginning at 8:14:07am, with the full annular eclipse at 9:38:32am, and the last at 11:18:45am, according to timeunitarium.com.
The last annular solar eclipse took place on the 26th of December last year when the prime viewing point was identified as Ras al Ruways Beach in South Sharqiya. The Chairperson of the Oman Astronomical Society OAS), Zakiya Al Mukini, a key figure in the wider ‘Annular Eclipse Project,’ since taking office little more than a year ago, at the time of the December eclipse advised that the Muscat region will be a better location for eclipse watchers to see and experience the phenomenon on this occasion.
“The OAS,” she said, “is keen to develop a new generation of astronomers, and also aims to promote astrological photography,” and consequently works closely with the Photographic Society of Oman to highlight the natural beauty of the stars and skies, never more obvious than during the ecliptic vision that is an annular solar eclipse.
“Similarly,” agreed Mazin al Julandani at the same time, “the scientific community, through the likes of prominent academic and astronomer Dr Saleh bin Said Al Sheithani takes significant interest in the event, and maybe only a few of us will be around for the next in 2103,” he smiled, “so we should make the most of the opportunity.”
The map of the viewing trajectory shows that the Sifah Marina to Quriyat Port coastline will be optimum, with Manah across to Adam in the interior also being primary viewing spots. In fact, the eclipse this year will be seen by millions from the Central Pacific Ocean in an arc including South East and Central Asia, the Middle East, and Central Africa.
The eclipse is not constant as all three elements, the Earth, Moon and Sun are always in motion, and the closer one is to the central path of the shadow, the bigger the eclipse looks. Due to the Sun being higher in the sky as the phenomenon occurs over Oman offers a wonderful opportunity for a prime astronomical experience.
For an annular solar eclipse three astronomical conditions must occur simultaneously. First it must be the time of the New Moon, second, the Earth, Moon and Sun are aligned in a straight line, and third, the Sun is at its apogee, or farthest distance from the Earth so the Sun is still visible as a ring around the Moon.
The eclipse may last as long as three hours from beginning to end, and based on the experience of the December eclipse the annular effect may be around 5 or 6 minutes though astronomers say that it can be anything from a few seconds to more than ten minutes.
Of course, looking at the Sun directly is never recommended, as the Sun’s rays can burn the retina, leading to short term, or even permanent vision problems. It is recommended that eclipse glasses or a pinhole projector are used to experience the event without any ophthalmic issues. First on your list though, check with the boss that you can get a good look at what is usually, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. (Photos by Lena Petersen)