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The longest total solar eclipse in the 21st century happened today (22nd July, 2009/ July 22nd, 2009)! The path of the Moon’s umbral shadow begins in India and crosses through Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar and China and left the Asia mainland before passing through Japan’s Ryukyu Islands and curves southeast through the Pacific Ocean where the maximum duration of totality reaches 6 min 39 s. And the broader path of the Moon’s penumbral shadow covers most of eastern Asia, Indonesia, and the Pacific Ocean (including Malaysia!).

An animation of the eclipse

An animation of the eclipse

I attended the Solar Eclipse viewing program in Kuala Ibai, Terengganu at Tengku Tengah Zaharah Mosque (Masjid terapung) organised by the Jabatan Mufti Terengganu, Jabatan Ukur dan Pemetaan Terengganu and Universiti Darul Iman Malaysia. The details were as written below:

In Kuala Terengganu,
First Contact – 8:24 am (when the Moon first “touches” the Sun’s limb)
Maximum Eclipse – 9:08 am (when the Moon covers the Sun’s disk the most; 13%)
Last Contact – 9:56 am (when the Moon “leaves” the Sun)

While in Kuala Lumpur, the details differ slightly:

First Contact – 8:29 am (when the Moon first “touches” the Sun’s limb)
Maximum Eclipse – 9:07 am (when the Moon covers the Sun’s disk the most; 8%)
Last Contact – 9:48 am (when the Moon “leaves” the Sun)

An animation of the solar eclipse.

Another animation of the solar eclipse.

We arrived at the program around 8:40 am but were unable to get a view of the eclipse as the sky was too cloudy. Luckily, at about 9:40 am, the clouds cleared away giving us a view of the eclipse before the clouds covered the sun again. There were six telescopes set for the program and 1500 people attended the program too.

The reason for this long eclipse is simply because now is July; a time when the Sun is farthest away from Earth (aphelion), thus is smallest in size. And the Moon also just passes it nearest point to Earth (perigee), thus it looks big in our sky. When a small Sun is blocked by a big Moon, the Moon will have more time to block the Sun.

The next total solar eclipse shall occur in 2132! That’s 123 more years to come (what a beautiful number!). That’s why I feel so lucky to be able to experience this eclipse. It shall be an unforgettable memory which I shall treasure in my heart forever and ever…

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