Thousands of scientists, eclipse chasers and spectators had assembled at the seaside pilgrimage town of Rameshwaram on Friday afternoon to witness the rare celestial phenomenon, an annular eclipse of the sun for 11 minutes and 10 seconds. The shadow of the moon eclipsed the sun, leaving only a blazing ring of fire visible. The eclipse, which could be seen across parts of Africa and Asia, began in India around 11 a.m. in Kerala and ended at around 3:15 p.m. in Mizoram.
In an annular eclipse the sun and moon are directly in line with the viewing point on earth and the outer rim of the sun is visible around the moon’s smaller shadow. The last time India saw this ‘Ring of Fire’ was on November 22, 1965, and it will not be witnessed again before June 21, 2020. The next longest annular solar eclipse will be seen only in 3043.
Two of India’s rocket bases were in the path of the moon’s shadow, and the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) set off nine small sounding rockets before, during and after the eclipse to investigate its effects on the atmosphere. The data collected would be used to study how the sudden cut-off of solar radiation affects the atmospheric structure and dynamics.