Clouds proved a dampener for the millions who gathered at planetariums, rooftops, parks and riverbanks across north India to watch this century’s longest total solar eclipse. Sun-struck
<b1>For Varasnasi’s teenaged daily wager Raj Kumar the sun was a sickle that turned into a round platter (gole tashtari), for Delhi’s Mayank Dube, a diamond in the sky — but the sentiment was the same: of awe.
The eclipse mesmerised millions and disappointed many more who got up at the crack of dawn to watch the eclipse, which was first seen at 5.28 am in Surat, Gujarat, and last at 7.40 am in Dibrugarh in Assam.
It lasted the longest for 4 minutes in India, with Japan getting the longest uninterrupted view of it for 6 minutes 44
This is the longest since July 11, 1991, when a total eclipse lasting 6 minutes, 53 seconds was visible from Hawaii to South America. The next one as long will be after 123 years, in 2132.
In India, the clearest skies for the total eclipse were at Varanasi, but two deaths marred the sighting as thousands took a dip in the Ganga to wash away their sins.
"One person drowned and another was crushed in a stampede," said PC Meena, deputy inspector general of police, Varanasi.
The eclipse was seen only in parts in Surat, Indore and Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh and Guwahati in Assam. It was partial in the rest of the country.
Dark, angry clouds spoilt the party for the thousands gathered at Taregna, 35 km from Patna, which shot into fame when US space agency NASA declared it the global “sweet spot” to view the eclipse. A huge crowd, which included Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, had gathered at the spanking new Sadar Hospital since 3 am, many singing hymns and dancing as they waited for the magic in the skies.
All they saw was a second dawn as sunlight filtered through the clouds after the momentary darkness caused by the eclipse.
"We missed a great spectacle. We had plan-ned coronal photography. Taregna had 40 per cent chances of visibility, which was considered good enough,” said Amitabh Pandey, who led the Space Popularisation Association of Communicators and Educators team.