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IAF, scientists team up to capture century's longest eclipse

india Updated: Jul 22, 2009 19:54 IST
Satyen Mohapatra

Viewing the eclipsed sun from an Indian Air Force AN - 32 transport aircraft from 25,000 feet above the Earth early on Wednesday morning, Advisor Department of Science and Technology and Director Vigyan Prasar, Vinay B Kamble, said the sun is quiet and not very active.

Talking to the Hindustan Times from Agra ( he flew from IAF base Agra), Kamble said, "Everytime the solar eclipse occurs the corona which is the sun's atmosphere looks different depending on the magnetic storms and sun spots, or the activity taking place on the Sun."

"The Corona's size and shape changes. This year what I saw was a very thin Corona with streamer which denotes that the sun is very quiet these days."

Dr Kamble said that the Vigyan Prasar had been co coordinating with the Indian Air Force to take scientists on aircrafts to see the eclipse and do experiments. They had taken the help of Air Force during eclipses in 1980 and 1995.

This year, he said, Prof KE Rangarajan from Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bangalore , held discussions with IAF personnel telling them about the solar physics and the experiment he wanted to conduct with their help on the day of total solar eclipse..

Today two Mirage 2000 trainer aircrafts which fly at 3,000 km (twice the speed of sound) took off from Gwalior base and successfully conducted the experiments for Indian Institute of Bangalore with the pilot in the rear seat clicking images.

Kamble said, "Prof Rangarajan wanted to photograph solar corona up to a distance of 12 solar radi (solar radius is 7 lakh kilometers). The photorgraphs were taken from 42,000 feet above the earth. "

The Corona extends very long distance sometimes extending 10 to 12 times the solar radi, he added.

The Solar corona is hundred thousand times fainter than the sun itself. It is as bright as the moon and there when we see the sun we do not see the corona and only during the total solar eclipse we can see the corona, he said.

He said the Head of Udaipur Solar Observatory P.Venkatakrishnan with Dr.Shibu Matthews along with two research scholars from the Observatory, alongwith Dr.Rintu Nath and Dr Arvind Ranade from Vigyan Prasar went in the AN- 32 for conducting experiments. A Doordarshan team also accompanied them.

He said the Udaipur Solar Observatory was interested in taking photographs of solar corona's two different wavelengths.

"During 1995 eclipse MIG 25 aircraft had flown to 80,000 feet to picture of the eclipse, but the aircrafts have been phased out," he added.