20 July 2009

22 Jul (Wed): Solar eclipse over Singapore

Seen from Singapore, only 10-20% of the Sun will be obscured.

But you can catch the moment on Channel U's live telecast.

This is apparently also an unprecedented opportunity for observers in China to find out whether gravity fluctuates during an eclipse. This phenomenon was first observed in 1954. The July eclipse, at over five minutes, will be the longest total solar eclipse predicted for this century. What's more, the event will occur when the sun is high in the sky; a time when any potential gravitational anomaly should be greatest.

Solar eclipses have long been associated with calamity. And the media has some stories about this upcoming eclipse with efforts by scientists to dispel such notions.

From an email from Channel U Promo:
This Wednesday 22 July 2009, a total eclipse of the Sun will be visible to some parts of the world, making it the longest total eclipse in the 21st century. The path of the moon’s umbra begins from India and crosses through Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar and China. After leaving mainland Asia, the path crosses Japan’s Ryukyu Islands and curves southeast through the Pacific Ocean where the maximum duration of totality reaches 6 min 39 sec.

Seen from Singapore, only 10 to 20 per cent of the Sun will be obscured. However, audience will get to catch the sensational moment of total eclipse live on Ch U.

From 8 - 11am on 22 July, Channel U will simulcast live with China Central Television (CCTV) which will present live telecasts from key China cities - Chengdu, Wuhan, Tongling and Hangzhou where the total eclipse will be seen at its most spectacular. A half-hour special highlights will be shown at 11.30pm on the same day.

July eclipse is best chance to look for gravity anomaly
Phil McKenna, New Scientist 19 Jul 09
From remote observatories on the Tibetan plateau to a cave in a Shanghai suburb, Chinese researchers are poised to conduct an audacious once-in-a-century experiment. The plan is to test a controversial theory: the possibility that gravity drops slightly during a total eclipse.

Geophysicists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences are preparing an unprecedented array of highly sensitive instruments at six sites across the country to take gravity readings during the total eclipse due to pass over southern China on 22 July. The results, which will be analysed in the coming months, could confirm once and for all that anomalous fluctuations observed during past eclipses are real.

"It sounds like what is really necessary to break the uncertainty," says Chris Duif of Delft University of Technology in The Netherlands. "I'm not really convinced the anomaly exists, but it would be revolutionary if it turned out to be true," he says.
Pendulum anomaly

The first sign that gravity fluctuates during an eclipse was in 1954. French economist and physicist Maurice Allais noticed erratic behaviour in a swinging pendulum when an eclipse passed over Paris.

Pendulums typically swing back and forth as a result of gravity and the rotation of the Earth. At the start of the eclipse, however, the pendulum's swing direction shifted violently, suggesting a sudden change in gravitational pull.

Fluctuations have since been measured during around 20 total solar eclipses, but the results still remain inconclusive.
Relative doubt

Most physicists doubt the anomaly's existence, because it would challenge our ideas about how gravity works.

As a result, a number of conventional explanations have been suggested. "There could be different reasons: atmospheric changes in temperature or air pressure, people suddenly moving or not moving, or other sudden changes," says C. S. Unnikrishnan of Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Mumbai, India.

However, in 2004, Duif posted a theory online concluding that none of the suggested external factors could account for the magnitude and timing of observed anomalies.

Best chance

In the run up to July's eclipse, Chinese researchers have prepared eight gravimeters and two pendulums spread across six monitoring sites. The team hopes that the vast distance between the sites (roughly 3000 kilometres (1864 miles) between the most easterly and westerly stations), as well as the number and diversity of instruments used, will eliminate the chance of instrument error or local atmospheric disturbances.

"If our equipment operates correctly, I believe we have a chance to say the anomaly is true beyond all doubt," says Tang Keyun, a geophysicist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

The opportunity won't come again soon. At over five minutes, the event will be the longest total solar eclipse predicted for this century. What's more, the event will occur when the sun is high in the sky; a time when, according to Tang, any potential gravitational anomaly should be greatest.

Solar eclipse pits superstition against science
Phil Hazlewood Yahoo News 19 Jul 09;
MUMBAI (AFP) – Indian astrologers are predicting violence and turmoil across the world as a result of this week's total solar eclipse, which the superstitious and religious view as a sign of potential doom.

But astronomers, scientists and secularists are trying to play down claims of evil portent in connection with Wednesday's natural spectacle, when the moon will come between the Earth and the sun, completely obscuring the sun.

In Hindu mythology, the two demons Rahu and Ketu are said to "swallow" the sun during eclipses, snuffing out its life-giving light and causing food to become inedible and water undrinkable.

Pregnant women are advised to stay indoors to prevent their babies developing birth defects, while prayers, fasting and ritual bathing, particularly in holy rivers, are encouraged.

Shivani Sachdev Gour, a gynaecologist at the Fortis Hospital in New Delhi, said a number of expectant mothers scheduled for caesarian deliveries on July 22 had asked to change the date.

"This is a belief deeply rooted in Indian society. Couples are willing to do anything to ensure that the baby is not born on that day," Gour said.

Astrologers have predicted a rise in communal and regional violence in the days following the eclipse, particularly in India, China and other Southeast Asian nations where it can be seen on Wednesday morning.

Mumbai astrologer Raj Kumar Sharma predicted "some sort of attack by (Kashmiri separatists) Jaish-e-Mohammad or Al-Qaeda on Indian soil" and a devastating natural disaster in Southeast Asia.

An Indian political leader could be killed, he said, and tension between the West and Iran is likely to increase, escalating into possible US military action after September 9, when fiery Saturn moves from Leo into Virgo.

"The last 200 years, whenever Saturn has gone into Virgo there has been either a world war or a mini world war," he told AFP.

It is not just in India that some are uneasy about what will transpire because of the eclipse.

In ancient China they were often associated with disasters, the death of an emperor or other dark events, and similar superstitions persist.

"The probability for unrest or war to take place in years when a solar eclipse happens is 95 percent," announced an article that attracted a lot of hits on the popular Chinese web portal Baidu.com.

Sanal Edamaruku, president of the Indian Rationalist Association, dismissed such doomsday predictions.

"Primarily, what we see with all these soothsayers and astrologers is that they're looking for opportunities to enhance their business with predictions of danger and calamity," he told AFP.

"They have been very powerful in India but over the last decade they have been in systematic decline."

Astronomers and scientists are also working to educate the public about the eclipse.

Travel firm Cox and Kings has chartered a Boeing 737-700 aircraft to give people the chance to see the eclipse from 41,000 feet (12,500 metres).

Experts will be on board to explain it to passengers, some of whom have paid 79,000 rupees (1,600 dollars) for a "sun-side" seat on the three-hour flight from New Delhi.

The eclipse's shadow is expected to pass over the aircraft at 15 times the speed of sound (Mach 15), said Ajay Talwar, president of the SPACE Group of companies that promotes science and astronomy.

"It's coming in the middle of the monsoon season. On the ground, there's a 40 percent chance of seeing it in India. On the aircraft you have almost a 90 percent chance of seeing the eclipse," he added.

Siva Prasad Tata, who runs the Astro Jyoti website, straddles the two worlds.

"There's no need to get too alarmed about the eclipse, they are a natural phenomenon," the astrologer told AFP.

But he added: "During the period of the eclipse, the opposite attracting forces are very, very powerful. From a spiritual point of view, this is a wonderful time to do any type of worship.

"It will bring about good results, much more than on an ordinary day."

More links
About the solar eclipse in Jan 09 with more about solar eclipses in general.

More media articles on the wildsingapore news blog

No comments:

Post a Comment

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails