Excitement Over July 22 Celestial Treat

RIYADH: A major solar eclipse lasting for more than six minutes will take place on Wednesday. Zaki Mostafa, a Saudi astronomer said, “Such a spectacular celestial event, the longest total solar eclipse, will not be surpassed again until 2132. It will be invisible in Saudi Arabia but will be visible in China, Pakistan, India, Japan and the South Pacific Ocean.”

Mostafa, head of the Astronomy Department at the King Abdulaziz City for Science & Technology (KACST), said that a large number of scientists around the world have prepared for this once-in-a-century experience and will conduct astronomical studies of this longest solar eclipse.

“A ‘total’ solar eclipse means that the moon is close enough to the Earth to completely cover the surface of the sun, whereas an ‘annular’ solar eclipse means that the moon is away from the Earth and appears smaller than the sun’s disk,” explained Mostafa.

He pointed out that this solar eclipse would not be visible in the Gulf, but that on Dec. 31 this year, a partial lunar eclipse would be visible in Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries.

Referring to the timings of this July 22 eclipse, a report said that the eclipse would commence at 2.44 a.m. (Saudi time) and terminate by 7.40 a.m. (Saudi time).

The maximum duration of annularity will be 6 minutes and 43 seconds. Mostafa said that the eclipse would darken a number of major cities in China, India and Pakistan in addition to densely populated countryside and a vast expanse of tropical ocean.

This solar eclipse will be visible in a narrow corridor through northern India, eastern Nepal, northern Bangladesh, Bhu-tan, the northern tip of Myanmar, central China and the Pacific Ocean, including the Ryukyu Islands, the Marshall Islands and Kiribati. This eclipse will be followed by a penumbral lunar on Aug. 6 this year. In fact, there are six eclipses during 2009, two of the sun and four of the moon.

The last of these will occur on Dec. 31 universal time which corresponds to Jan. 1, 2010 in New Zealand and Australia.

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