A celestial feast is on the horizon. Come December 26 and skygazers will have the time of a lifetime. The rare annular solar eclipse, also called the “ring of fire”, will be visible along the Malabar region of Kerala.
Eclipses happen when the Earth, the Moon and the Sun are aligned in a straight line. When the moon passes between earth and the sun, the moon's shadow is cast on earth. That is what we call solar eclipse. When earth comes in the middle, it darkens the moon.
Though solar and lunar eclipses are quite regular, an annular eclipse is a rare occasion. The Moon covers the Sun but not too much. It leaves out the edges of the Sun, giving a ring like impression in the sky.
How does it work? The Moon's diameter is 3,474 kilometres and its distance from the Earth is 3,84,400 km on average. The Sun is a much larger body, with a diametre of 14 lakh km, but it is more than 15 crore km away. In effect, we feel that both celestial bodies are of the same size and the Moon can actually cover the Sun!
The Earth and the Moon travel in elliptical orbits, leaving us to believe that the Moon appears smaller some times. In such a situation, the Moon cannot completely cover the Sun. That is an annular eclipse.
The line of the next annular solar eclipse pass through Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE, India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore. People who live up to thousands of kilometres on either side of the central path can also see a partial eclipse.
The annular solar eclipse will be visible in north Kerala, south Karnataka and central Tamil Nadu. Kasaragod, Kannur, Kozhikode, Wayanad, Malappuram and Palakkad districts are prime areas to watch a perfect eclipse. In the rest of the Kerala, the Sun will look like a half moon at the time of the eclipse.
Though we perceive the Sun as travelling from the east to the west, the eclipse will transition from the west to the east.
Is it safe?
It is never safe to look at the Sun with naked eyes. Use solar glasses or projectors. Do not look through a telescope.
However, it is perfectly alright to go out during the time of the eclipse and to eat. Do not fall to superstitions that eclipse can poison the surroundings. Eclipses are celebrated the world over. A rare eclipse like this gives all the more reason to celebrate.