Rare solar eclipse casts glow of excitement

Left: In Thailand, students held up handmade shields during the eclipse in Phuket yesterday. Above: A composite image of seven photographs capturing the partial eclipse in East Coast, shot from the 20th storey of Neptune Court between 7.30am and 8.23
Above: In Thailand, students held up handmade shields during the eclipse in Phuket yesterday. PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY
Left: In Thailand, students held up handmade shields during the eclipse in Phuket yesterday. Above: A composite image of seven photographs capturing the partial eclipse in East Coast, shot from the 20th storey of Neptune Court between 7.30am and 8.23
The crowd at Science Centre Singapore yesterday.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN
Left: In Thailand, students held up handmade shields during the eclipse in Phuket yesterday. Above: A composite image of seven photographs capturing the partial eclipse in East Coast, shot from the 20th storey of Neptune Court between 7.30am and 8.23
Above: A composite image of seven photographs capturing the partial eclipse in East Coast, shot from the 20th storey of Neptune Court between 7.30am and 8.23am yesterday.PHOTO: ANDREW LUM

Tens of thousands of people catch morning sight in Singapore and the region

With their heads tilted back and eyes on the sky, tens of thousands of people in Singapore and the region stood transfixed during yesterday morning's solar eclipse.

In Singapore, the event started at about 7.20am and peaked just past 8.20am, when 87 per cent of the Sun was obscured by the passing Moon.

For a while, morning light transformed into gold-tinted evening. Normal daylight returned at about 9.30am.

A chorus of "oohs" and "aahs" broke out at Paya Lebar Methodist Girls' School (Secondary) (PLMGS) when the eclipse started.

Over 300 students and staff observed it through solar telescopes set up in the school's sky garden.

Secondary 2 student Chantal Aw, 14, said: "It's really beautiful and it's so cool. I've been super excited since this morning."

Fellow Secondary 2 student Yuki Puah, 14, said: "Viewing the eclipse today really helps me understand the natural phenomenon better."

 

Vice-principal and amateur astronomer Alfred Tan, 55, was delighted by how inquisitive the students were.

"My day was made when I heard all my students exclaim 'wow'," he said, adding that he fielded endless questions about the Sun.

A live feed from a telescope at PLMGS was also registered to be viewed by 180 teachers from 119 schools.

Solar eclipses happen when the Moon passes between the Sun and the Earth, forming a shadow on the Earth's surface.

Partial eclipses, such as the one seen here yesterday, occur when a portion of the Sun is blocked.

At the Science Centre Singapore, the crowd grew to at least 3,000. Visitors were provided with solar glasses to view the eclipse safely.

Among them were Mr T.Y. Tan, 44, his wife Heow Fong Lyn, 39, and their three children, aged four, seven and eight.

Mr Tan said: "It's amazing when you look around and the darkness covers everything.

"Years from now, I can think back to 2016, and know that I took them (his family) to watch the eclipse together."

Asked why viewing the eclipse was important to her, Ms Qori Qurrota Aini, 21, said: "It gives you a sense of consciousness that out there is a Moon, and we are beings on Earth."

"I might be a little late (for my morning class) but it's okay," added the National University of Singapore (NUS) student.

At Labrador Park, the Astronomical Society of Singapore organised a viewing that was attended by about 200 people.

Financial controller Eliza Tay, 49, woke up at 4am to prepare for the event with her husband, Mr Ting Yeh, 39, and son Ryan, 19, as well as 21/2-month-old daughter Rebecca.

Ms Tay wanted her children to see the phenomenon as it happened, rather than just learning about it in textbooks.

Over at NUS, nearly 3,000 faculty members, staff, students and visitors gathered to view the eclipse.

Dr Cindy Ng, a senior lecturer at the university's physics department, pointed out that while it was only a partial eclipse, it was still a spectacular sight.

The last time such an extensive eclipse could be seen in Singapore was in 1998, and the next time will be in 2019, she said.

The next one will be an annular eclipse, on Dec 26, 2019. Then, the Sun and Moon will be completely in line with each other. Viewers will see a glowing ring around the Moon known as the "ring of fire".

With the spectacular display to look forward to, doctors have warned that staring at the Sun with the naked eye could cause permanent damage to the retina.

Not using any solar filters, or using improper gear - such as sunglasses, solar film, X-ray film or other methods - to stare at the Sun, could result in blurred or distorted vision, dark spots or changes in the way colours are perceived. Solar glasses, however, work fine as they filter out harmful rays. These glasses, which look like 3D glasses with dark film, typically cost just over $1.30.

•Additional reporting by Ng Keng Gene, Rachel Chia, Alexis Ong and Tan Weizhen


Correction note: An earlier version of this story said a live feed from a telescope at PLMGS was beamed to around 180 schools.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 10, 2016, with the headline 'Rare solar eclipse casts glow of excitement'. Print Edition | Subscribe