Cloudy skies may play dampener on rare celestial event


Representational image Lunar Eclipse (PTI Photo)

Representational image Lunar Eclipse (PTI Photo)

Stargazers in India were excited ahead of the century’s longest lunar eclipse tonight, though monsoon rains and cloudy skies threaten to dampen the view.

A blood moon will appear in the night sky around much of the world tonight as the moon moves into the shadow of the earth. The total eclipse will last 1 hour, 42 minutes and 57 seconds (between 1930 and 2113 GMT), though a partial eclipse precedes and follows, meaning the moon will spend a total of 3 hours and 54 minutes in the earth’s umbral shadow, according to NASA.

In the Indian capital New Delhi, Hindu devotees were thronging the temples in unusually large numbers ahead of the celestial event which has significance in ancient Hindu astrology and mythology. Indian astrologers and priests said such eclipses have profound effects on life on earth and advise people to stay indoors to avoid being exposed to impure rays from the skies.

Planetariums and schools in India have also been organizing special events to raise awareness and create a buzz around the historic event.

N Ratnashree, the director of the Nehru Planetarium, said besides arranging five telescopes, the centre has also organised lectures pertaining to the eclipse. Amateur astronomers have also volunteered to guide people tomorrow about the eclipse, she said.

“But all this is subject to the rains and cloudy sky. There is already a lot of enthusiasm among people,” Ratnashree added.

The Astronomical Society of India (ASI) cautioned against creating a hype around this event.

“For serious astronomers, this event does offer an extraordinary opportunity to study Mars through their telescopes. However, a layman who might expect to see dramatic details of the surface of Mars would probably be disappointed,” it said in a statement.

“Since we are in the middle of the monsoon here in India, the sky is likely to be cloudy,” it said.

“People in Jammu and Kashmir, and Tamil Nadu are most likely to be able to witness the event clearly,” Aniket Sule, Chair of the Public Outreach and Education Committee (POEC) of ASI, told PTI.