Solar eclipse across Singapore wows students, teachers and families with babies in tow

Andy Goh and his four-year-old son Patrick view the partial solar eclipse through an X-ray film. ST PHOTO: RACHEL CHIA
People at the Science Centre view the eclipse in Singapore on March 9, 2016. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN
People at the Science Centre view the partial solar eclipse through a telescope. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN
Students at Paya Lebar Methodist Girls' School (Secondary) (PLMGS) look through a telescope to view the solar eclipse on March 9, 2016. ST PHOTO: NG KENG GENE
The partial solar eclipse in Singapore on March 9, 2016. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

SINGAPORE - With an X-ray film shielding their eyes, Mr Andy Goh and his four-year-old son Patrick peered towards the sky as a partial eclipse cast a shadow over the island at 8.23am on Wednesday (March 9) morning.

"Patrick is learning about planets in kindergarten so I thought it would be good for him to see this," the 43-year-old told The Straits Times.

Mr Goh joined 200 other people at Labrador Park to catch the rare phenomenon.

Solar eclipses occur when the moon crosses between the sun and the earth, forming a shadow on the earth's surface. A partial eclipse, as seen here, occurs when a portion of the sun is obscured by the moon.

Financial controller Eliza Tay, 49, who is a member of the Astronomical Society of Singapore, woke up at 4am to prepare for the event with her husband, Mr Ting Yeh, 39, and son Ryan, 19, and 2½-month-old daughter Rebecca.

The family arrived at the park at 5.30am, and were spotted having a McDonald's breakfast as they waited for the eclipse to occur. She wanted her children to see the phenomenon as it happened, and not just in textbooks.

As a child, her father used a pail of water to show her the reflection of the sun, said Ms Tay.

"Usually in the morning, the skies are cloudy but it was clear today, which is rare, so the view was fantastic," she said.

The spectacle started at around 7.20am Singapore time, peaking at 8.23am where 87 per cent of the sun was obscured. That revealed a bright orange crescent, and produced a shadow that shrouded the island - momentarily turning morning to evening. The phenomenon ended at around 9.30am.

A total of 146 eclipses have been or will be seen in Singapore between the year 1700 and 2100.

At Paya Lebar Methodist Girls' School (Secondary), more than 300 students and staff gathered at the school's sky garden to observe the sun through the 11 solar telescopes. They were led by vice-principal Alfred Tan, an amateur astronomer.

A live feed from a telescope at the school was also beamed to more than 100 schools.

Physics teacher Chai Wee Jie, 30, said the school had been preparing for the event since last year.

He said it was a very special occasion for him because he last caught an eclipse 18 years ago when he was a Primary 6 pupil in Marsiling Primary School.

"Back then we didn't have the proper equipment or education to view the eclipse safely, so I'm glad my students are able to enjoy the eclipse with adequate protection today," he said.

Secondary 2 student Yuki Puah said that although science is everywhere, people know so little about it.

"Viewing the eclipse today really helps me understand natural phenomenon better," he said.

At Science Centre Singapore, the crowd grew to more than a thousand. Visitors were provided with solar glasses to safely view the eclipse.

"It's an amazing family moment, because as the kids get older, there will be no time to do things together, so we made time to come out," said Mrs Arin Sen, 50, a communications specialist.

She was with her daughter Ilina, nine, who said of the eclipse: "It was really awesome. It turned orange and then it disappeared."

Mr T.Y. Tan, 44, and wife Heow Fong Lyn, 39, came with their three children, aged four, seven and eight, to watch the eclipse together. The kids, who usually woke up at 8am, were up at 6am to go to the Science Centre, and Mr Tan took half-day off work for the event.

"It's amazing when you look around, and the darkness overcasts everything," he said. "Years from now, I can think back to 2016, and know that I took them (his family) to watch the eclipse together."

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