SINGAPORE - It has been nearly 70 years since Ms Lu Lizhu, 80, last saw an eclipse, and that was "a very different experience".
"I was in my teens then. When the eclipse happened, my dad told me to bring out the drums into the street so we could make as much noise as possible to save the Moon. It was what we believed in the kampung," she told The Straits Times at the amphitheatre in front of Block 134 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3.
About 800 people gathered there to view the annular eclipse on Thursday (Dec 26). The mood was convivial as people shared tips on how to best capture the rare phenomenon on camera, exchanged sunglasses, and pointed excitedly at the Sun. Some had laid out picnic mats in the carpark and on a grassy slope outside the designated viewing area.
In the amphitheatre, a queue snaked round as people waited for a turn to use a telescope that the People's Association (PA) had set up.
Expecting a smaller crowd, the PA had prepared 300 pairs of paper solar glasses that were all given out by 11.30am. People had started queuing from 9am, the PA said.
Ms Vivian Kwek, who is in her 40s, had made pinhole cameras with cardboard and aluminium foil so her two daughters could see an image of the eclipse without hurting their eyes. She ran up to her flat near the amphitheatre to get more materials after many others crowded around her and her family to use her home-made device.
"My husband and I googled yesterday night on how to make these pinhole cameras. They are easy to make and do not take up a lot of time," the parenting coach said, pointing to her 15- and seven-year-old daughters who were fiddling with the cardboard.
When the Moon moved into position to obscure the Sun at 1.24pm, the crowd whooped and cheered. Two drivers honked their car horns in celebration.
Mr Rohan Anchan, 43, brought his three children for the viewing. Feeding his children lunch as they waited for the dramatic moment, he said he had taken leave from his job at the Singapore Exchange specially for the occasion.
"The last time I saw an eclipse was in India with my dad. He had made pinhole cameras and we made a day of it, camping out from 11am to see the eclipse at 4pm. My wife is not here with us today, as she is busy, but she is here with us in spirit.
"I am very excited to share the photos and videos I have taken with her later," he said.
Budding photographer Yu Zhida, a Secondary 3 student at Nan Chiau High School, set up his camera in the middle of the amphitheatre after arriving there after his co-curricular activity in school.
Vigorously rubbing his camera lens, he said this was a good chance to test out his photography skills, which he had been honing since his interest in photography was piqued two years ago during a school outing to Fort Canning Park.
"I am going to post my photo on Instagram later. I have a list of hashtags prepared," he said.
Physics teacher Mason Tan was at the viewing party with his wife and nine-month-old daughter. He had queued for the paper solar glasses but they ran out just as he reached the front of the line.
"I always teach my students about umbra and penumbra, and this is science in action. We will shield my baby's eyes with a handkerchief but she's smart. She knows when to close her eyes," he said.
The crowd quickly dispersed after 2pm, but people continued to discuss what they had seen. A girl changed her phone display to a photo of the eclipse that she had just taken.