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Total solar eclipse: All roads lead to Bihar

india Updated: Jul 16, 2009 01:34 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
All roads lead to Bihar’s town with a view

Taregana is buzzing with activity.

The National Aeronautics & Space Administration (NASA), the US space research and exploration agency, has declared after 20 years of research that this nondescript town, 25 km south of Patna, is the best location on earth from which to watch the largest solar eclipse of the century on July 22.

NASA has also listed it among the best places from which to observe the stars.

Aryabhatta (476-550 AD) had figured this out a long time ago.

<b1>The famous 6th Century astronomer-mathematician from India’s Golden Age — who first proposed that the earth rotates on its axis and developed the concept of zero — had located his observatory at the sun temple that existed in Taregana (literally, song of the stars) then.

Following unknowingly in his footsteps, scientists, tourists and eclipse chasers from across the world suddenly want to visit Taregana.

The problem: Taregana does not have hotels or other facilities to receive so many guests.

The solution: The Bihar State Tourism Development Corporation will put up tents and temporary cottages to cope with the rush.

The July 22 eclipse, which will begin at 5.29 a.m., will be the longest in the 21st century and last 6 minutes and 39 seconds. It will not be surpassed in duration till July 13, 2132, ie, 123 years from now.

“The 200-kilometer-wide shadow of the eclipse will cover places as distant as Gujarat and Arunachal Pradesh in India and extend to China and Japan. It will be most intense in and around Taregana’s Sun Temple (built recently on the location of the one that existed in Aryabhatta’s time),” said Professor Vikrant Narang, an astronomer associated with the Space Popularisation Association of Communicators and Educators, a non-governmental organisation working to popularise science among the masses.

Scientists from NASA, the Tata Institute for Fundamental Research, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and Indian Space Research Organization will start arriving in Taregana from July 17.

They will stay at the local hospital where the rooftop is being converted into a temporary observatory.

Many others are expected to stay in Patna and drive down to Taregana very early on July 22 to view the eclipse.