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Eclipse morn: city stands goggled at planetarium,rooftops

Grinning ear to ear,Niel Mathur could not hold back his excitement. He had just seen the partial solar eclipse at Nehru Planetarium.

Written by Maroosha Muzaffar | New Delhi |
July 23, 2009 1:19:56 am

Grinning ear to ear,Niel Mathur could not hold back his excitement. He had just seen the partial solar eclipse at Nehru Planetarium. “I saw it,I saw it — the sun looks like a crescent,an orange crescent,” Niel shrieked as he rushed back to father Rajat Mathur.

The Mathurs were among a few hundred who had assembled at the planetarium to catch the eclipse,which lasted 6 minutes,38 seconds. 

“It was magical,” said Riya Hari,a Class VII student of Springdales School,Pusa Road,looking skyward through her solar goggles. Her sister Esha added: “First the sun appeared yellow,then it started hiding. Finally,it looked like a crescent.”

Ansh Matta,a Class I student of Tagore International School,did the explaining in his own way: “Bilkul aag jaisa lag raha tha (it looked exactly like fire).”

Other spots,such as Jantar Mantar and the National Science Centre,also opened their doors to enthusiasts and closed the doors on eclipse-related myths and suspicions.

At Nehru Planetarium,many began gathering from as early as 4.30 am. The cloud cover early in the morning made the tension palpable — would the clouds play spoilsport? Disappointed at the cloud cover,Kumar,a Class V student of St Mark’s School,said: “I woke up at 4 am to see this. I wanted to see it myself,not on TV.”

Fingers crossed,IIT-Delhi student Ruchika Aggarwal said,“I hope the sky clears soon.” It did.

And,almost immediately,jostling began around the black filter screens,telescopes and binocular projections. Cameras,handycams,cellphone cameras — they all made their presence felt. “Don’t look directly at the sun; here,take the film,” a concerned friend said to another while handing him an X-ray plate.

Some expressed disappointment at the “lack of proper arrangement”. By 5.30 am,the solar goggles had run out. “We sold about 3,000 goggles till Tuesday 5 pm,” O P Gupta,chief engineer at the planetarium,said.

Some officials from the city-based astronomical group SPACE,which had set up a telescope at the planetarium and at India Gate,said officials meant to teach children “basic telescope operation skills” had “gone to places with 100 per cent visibility” since Delhi’s visibility was limited to 80 per cent.

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