Spectacular solar eclipse on a clear morning

The Sun seen as a crescent at 8.29am yesterday, with a capsule of the Singapore Flyer in the foreground. In Singapore, the solar eclipse started at about 7.20am and peaked just past 8.20am.
The Sun seen as a crescent at 8.29am yesterday, with a capsule of the Singapore Flyer in the foreground. In Singapore, the solar eclipse started at about 7.20am and peaked just past 8.20am.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Tens of thousands of people in Singapore and the region turned their faces to the Sun yesterday - overjoyed that it was a clear morning - as the Moon passed in front of it in a much-anticipated solar eclipse.

For an hour until about 8.20am, when 87 per cent of the Sun was obscured, it might have been dusk.

Across the island, schoolchildren murmured at an event they had never seen in their lives.

Vice-principal of Paya Lebar Methodist Girls' School (Secondary) Alfred Tan, 55, an amateur astronomer, was delighted. "My day was made when I heard all my students exclaim 'wow'," he said.

A live feed from PLMGS was beamed to some 180 schools.

The Science Centre and Astronomical Society of Singapore also held viewings. At the National University of Singapore, nearly 3,000 faculty, staff, students and visitors gathered to watch the eclipse.

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

Dr Cindy Ng, senior lecturer at the Department of Physics, said the last time such an extensive eclipse was seen in Singapore was in 1998, and the next would be in 2019.

Yesterday, the ring of fire around the Moon was most spectacular in the parts of Indonesia which experienced a total eclipse.

Seen in 12 of Indonesia's 34 provinces, the event was Indonesia's tourism highlight of the year.

The authorities had pumped in 15 billion rupiah (S$1.6 million) to promote the provinces since a year ago and about 100,000 foreign tourists flocked there this week.

Early government estimates put tourism receipts, from hotels, retailers and travel agencies, at nearly 200 billion rupiah.

"We are very happy to have international tourists visiting Indonesia for this solar eclipse," Tourism Minister Arief Yahya told The Straits Times.

Avid stargazers said they needed little coaxing to travel to see an eclipse. Dutch doctor Ineke Ruting, 55, said she had seen total solar eclipses in Turkey and China.

"It's fascinating. When the sky turns dark, the birds stop singing, some flowers close (their petals), life suddenly stops," she said.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 10, 2016, with the headline 'Spectacular solar eclipse on a clear morning'. Print Edition | Subscribe