June 20, 1999
BHUBANESWAR, JUNE 19: Millions of Indians may lock themselves up in their homes to dodge an eclipsed Sun, but Indian astronomers are clearly worried over the south-west monsoon playing spoilsport in the viewing of the millennium’s last total solar eclipse (TSE) on August 11.
The total eclipse will be visible in India for a little over a minute in Vadodara, Gujarat, cutting across South-East to North of Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh before setting in the Bay of Bengal. The next TSE will not happen before June 21, 2001. “The track of totality of the eclipse will be in some areas of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and AP. But the problem is that the monsoon will be at its peak during this time. So the expectation of a cloudfree sky is really less,” predicts noted astronomer and senior scientist of M P Birla Planetarium, Amalendu Bandyopadhyay.
His view is echoed by the chairman of the National Council of Science and Technology Communications, Professor VB Kamble, who says that there is a 70 per centchance of not being able to see the eclipse. Kamble says that the best meteorological prospects in the entire eclipse path are Turkey, Iran and Iraq. The duration of the total eclipse will be the maximum of 2 minutes 22 seconds in Bucharest, Romania.“Expectations of seeing the eclipse are 32 per cent in Ahmedabad and 5 per cent in Eastern India,” Kamble says. The only place where you have got a real chance of viewing the total eclipse is the extreme western coast of Gujarat, Bandopadhyay says, where the sky will be relatively free of clouds. “Therefore the chances of visibility of a TSE will be more in places like Bhuj, Ropar, Surendranagar and Lakhpat,” he adds.
However, there is another interesting possibility of break in the monsoon occurring along the foot of the Himalayas, Bandyopadhyay says, by which places like Andhra Pradesh and Orissa will have cloudfree sky for 2 to 3 days facilitating viewing of the millennium’s last eclipse. Yet another possibility is the formation of a cyclonic storm overthe Bay of Bengal during that period. Then, Orissa, AP and West Bengal would remain cloudfree, he says, however, adding that in any case the the predictions can’t be made more than two days before August 11.
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The Indian astronomy thinktank, including Dr JJ Rawal of the Mumbai Nehru planetarium, solar eclipse expeditions’ veteran Prof S Gopinath and Dr Ambastha of Udaipur Observatory, will meet at Calcutta on July 5 to discuss finer points like the time and climatic conditions expected to prevail during the eclipse.
The worst possible scenario would be that the eclipse would not be visible at all due to an overcast sky, scientists add.
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