A rare celestial treat - a total solar eclipse - will be seen in India in the early hours of July 22. And those planning to give it a miss will have to wait for 78 long years to catch the rare glimpse again!
It will be the third total solar eclipse to be visible in India in the past 15 years, a senior scientist said here. The next total solar eclipse will occur in 2087.
"The eclipse will start shortly after sunrise from Surat in south Gujarat and will be visible in a long band that extends up to Japan," said Bharat Adur, director, Akashganga Centre for Astronomy, and a former senior scientist with the Nehru Planetarium.
"In Surat it will be visible in totality for three minutes, but it Bihar it will be nearly four minutes. In Iwo-Jima, near the Guam Islands in the Far East, its visibility will be as long as six minutes," Adur said.
The route the eclipse will take is from Surat, Indore and other cities in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, parts of Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Sikkim and Assam.
It will be also be visible in neighbouring countries like Bhutan, China and the Tibet region, then in Japan and the Guam Islands.
The sun would be covered up to 95 percent in Mumbai and 80 percent in New Delhi and other north Indian cities, and Bangalore, Chennai and other southern cities, Adur said. It will be visible in most parts of India in varying degrees of totality, depending on the monsoon situation.
The route the eclipse will travel through central India largely encompasses the backward and tribal regions of the country.
"Hence, it is very important for the authorities concerned to create awareness of the eclipse among the tribals and poor people to ensure that they don't suffer any health problems," he urged.
The last total solar eclipses visible in India were in 1995 and 1999. After the July 22, 2009, eclipse, the next total solar eclipse will occur in 2087.
"This is the last opportunity for the present generation to view a total solar eclipse and they must make all efforts to exploit it, especially since it happens in the Year of Astronomy-2009 declared by the Unesco," Adur said.
Accordingly, Adur is taking groups of scientists and ordinary persons to view the eclipse from Saharsa in Bihar, around 250 km from Patna, where it will be visible for nearly four minutes.
Adur said that all such eclipses contribute to and enrich mankind's knowledge of science and the universe. "For instance, it was during a total solar eclipse in 1868 in India that a French scientist discovered the presence of Helium in the atmosphere," he explained.