RING OF FIRE from varkala, kerala, india

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Report of ASE 2010


The Annular Solar Eclipse which gained popularity as the Millennium's longest duration eclipse and as the 'Ring of Fire', occurred on Jan 15, 2010. SPACE (Science Popularization Association of Communicators and Educators) and ECa (Eclipse Chasers Athenaeum) celebrated this with events around India including public eclipse watches, scientific and educational expeditions and a cruise to Maldives.

Pictures of the ASE taken by SPACE teams can be seen at:

Recordings of the webcast of the ASE provided by the SPACE team from Varkala is available at on USTREAM  at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/annular-solar-eclipse-january-15th-2010

Following events and projects were executed by SPACE group during the ASE 2010

I.                    Pre-Eclipse Workshops, Delhi, 10th Jan, 2010
Space organized an eclipse workshop for all the schools at Delhi and NCR on 10th Jan 2010 from 9:30am to 2 pm. This workshop was held at a nodal point i.e. Nehru Planetarium for the maximum accessibility of all the space schools. The workshop began with a power point presentation that included all the basic facts about the eclipse. This presentation also explained the circumstances especially for the annular eclipse and why this eclipse is longest in three millenniums. Presentation included many rare and beautiful pictures that made the audience really excited to watch the upcoming solar eclipse. It also talked about the safe methods to watch any solar eclipse. This was followed by a demonstration and hand on the safe methods to watch the eclipse. All the safe as well unsafe equipments were shown to the audience and the explanation for using them was given thoroughly to the participants. Audience also came to know about the Do’s and Don’ts during a solar eclipse. The entire workshop had a continuous focus on breaking the superstitions and myths during an eclipse. The SPACE team could really see the eagerness and excitement for the upcoming solar eclipse on all the participants’ faces at the end of the workshop.

II.                  Pre-Eclipse Talk by Prof. Jay Pasachoff, 11th Jan 2010
SPACE and Nehru Planetarium jointly organized an interaction and talk with noted eclipse expert, Prof. Jay Pasachoff, field memorial professor of Astronomy and director of Hopkins Observatory at Nehru Planetarium on 11th Jan, 2010. More than 170 students and 30 space club school coordinators attended as Prof. Pasachoff shared his eclipse experiences. It was very interesting interaction between the students and Prof. Pasachoff. He cleared their doubts about eclipses. It was indeed a great opportunity for students to interact with the top most authority in solar eclipses in the world. Electronic and print media persons were there to cover the event.

III.               Public Watches in Delhi/NCR  for ASE, 15th Jan 2010
SPACE teams conducted public solar eclipse watches in Delhi. A watch was held at Nehru Planetarium. The observations in SPACE schools in delhi and NCR went off well as most of the schools arranged the eclipse watch. Hillwoods academy, Ahalcon school,  and Apeejay Pitampura and had big crowd of students and teachers to view the eclipse. Reports from other schools are awaited. Students of Salwan Public school and St. Mary’s observed the eclipse from the planetarium.

IV.                SPACE Nodal Centers (SNCs), 15th Jan 2010
SNC's accross the nation had organised successful solar eclipse watches in the institutions. Deepak Sharma of SNC Meerut went to Kanyakumari to observe the eclipse and did outreach activities with eager public there. Ashutosh Tripathi of SNC Indore, joined the team of SPACE in Varkala and did eclipse photography. More reports from other SNC’s are awaited.

V.                  VARKALA, KERALA, 15th Jan 2010
In Varkala, Kerala which is at the Northern edge of the Annular Eclipse, SPACE held several projects in an effort to address different aspects of the eclipse. These included a public watch, educational experiments with school children and a scientific team’s attempts to capture Baily’s Beads.

a. Varkala - Public Watch
A public watch was held at the scenic helipad location on a cliff overlooking the beach, and the public were treated to vistas of the eclipse over the ocean. About 800 people showed up at the helipad area to catch a glimpse! Science teams from SPACE led the observations and explained the stages as well as provided people with solar goggles. Shikha Chanana and Mr. Ved Prakash Bahmba explained the phenomenon and showed safe ways to view the eclipse to the eager crowd comprising of locals and foreign tourists there.

b. Varkala - Educational Experiments
A team of about 10 school students were led by SPACE science officer Tanmay Paranjpaye into performing several real time experiments during the eclipse. The students ranged from third graders to college students, and hailed from Delhi, Shimla and Hyderabad. Experiments ranged from measurements of temperature, humidity and ambient light variations as well as radio frequency measurements before during and after the eclipse. These experiments were instrumental in involving the school children in real time experimentation and data collection.

Detailed Report
Students performed the experiments on 14th Jan 2010 (Pre-Eclipse day), 15th Jan 2010 (Eclipse day). Pre eclipse and Post eclipse day readings served as the reference to check the magnitude of variations observed.
1. Variation of Air Temperature and Humidity.
This experiment was performed at two altitudes by students using digital Hygrometer and Thermometer.
1a. At 2m above ground (by Gautam Sharma, Hyderabad Public School):
Pre eclipse day -
Humidity: almost constant 58 to 59%
Temperature: almost constant ranging from 33 to 35 degree C.
Eclipse Day -
Temperature : Dropped from 32 to 25.6 deg C during annularity and went up again to 33.4 deg C.
Humidity: Max. 56%, During annularity 54% and Min. 48%

1b. 10m above ground  (Shashank Shekhar and Pallavi Mamgain The airforce school subroto park, delhi)
Pre-Eclipse Day -
Temperature: almost constant ranging from 30 to 32 degree C.
Humidity: almost constant 66 to 67%
Eclipse Day -
Temperature: Dropped from 32 to 28.3 deg C during annularity and went up again to 32 deg C.
Humidity: Max. 64%, During annularity 62 to 63% and Min. 54%

2. Variation of Wind Speed
2a. 2m above ground (Sidharth Raj Agarwal, Birla Vidya Niketan delhi)
Apparatus used was a digital anemometer. Observed changes:
Pre- Eclipse Day – Wind Speed: Max. 2.6 m/s , Min. 0.7 m/s
Eclipse Day - Wind Speed: Max. 5.8 m/s, During Annularity 0.1 m/s  and Min. 0.1m/s .

2b. 10m above ground (Shashank Shekhar and Pallavi Mamgain The airforce school subroto park, delhi)
Pre-Eclipse day - Wind Speed : Max. 3.6 m/s, Min. 0.3 m/s
Eclipse Day - Wind Speed: Max. 3.3 m/s, During annularity 0.2 to 1.4 m/s and Min. 0.2 m/s

3. Variation of Ambient Brightness (Praful Sharma, Alcon Public School)
3a. 2m above the ground.
Apparatus used was a digital Luxmeter. Observed changes:
Pre eclipse day - Ambient Light: Max. 1839*20000 Lux , Min. 168*20000 Lux
Eclipse Day - Ambient Light : Max.  1460*20000 Lux, During Annularity 80 to 130*20000 Lux  and Min. 80* 20000 Lux.

The rest of the students  (Chhavi, Asmi, Sharmishtha and Dhananjay ) belonged to standard Jr KG to 3rd of Indraprastha world school, Paschim Vihar, Delhi. They were involved in visual observations of the eclipse and drawing the various phases of the eclipse.

4. Radio Measurements
Tushar, a member of Astronomica and a student volunteer with SPACE, monitored the Sun at 20 MHz with SPACEs Radio Jove receiver assembled by him as team member under SPACE project and Dipole antenna for three days, starting a day before the eclipse and ending a day after. He got some interesting results correlated to the large sunspot group present on the Sun on the eclipse day.

Varkala - Scientific Team captured Baily’s Beads
Report from Scientific Team, Varkala, Kerala, ASE 2010, SPACE

It certainly seems like the efforts of SPACE team in choosing Varkala, Kerala as the place for observing ASE 2010 paid off. While many people prefer to go to the centre line of the eclipse to see the perfect do-nut like Sun (about 10-11 minutes duration for this eclipse), SPACE chose to go to the near the northern grazing zone of the eclipse just 3 KM inside the interior limit of the graze zone where the phenomenon of Baily's Beads - the beautiful, rapidly changing beads of light formed as the lunar mountains graze past the surface of the Sun and the light from the photosphere shines through the lunar valleys - would be most dynamic and prolonged (ref: http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/SEmono/reference/graze.html) while still giving an Annularity of 2 minutes 56 seconds (after correcting for lunar limb profile). The observation of Bailys Beads from the edge of the eclipse path also helps in accurately determining the size of the Lunar shadow and thereby accurately determining the diameter of the Sun (method: http://weblore.com/richard/Solareclipse.htm).

SPACE ASE 2010 Scientific Team was located at the roof of hotel Sanctum Spring beach resort (08° 44' 09."3 N, 76° 42' 18.0" E) near the Helipad, Varkala. The team comprised of Vikrant Narang, Chander Bhushan Devgun, Mila Mitra and Surendar Solanki. They were assisted by the technical team of Mani and satish.

Here are preliminary reports of Experiments and Photography:

1) Video Recording Baily's Beads at High Time and Pixel Resolution:
Equipment Used: Cannon 500D DSLR at prime focus behing 10" Meade LX200 telescope.

Focal Length: 2500mm,
Resolution: Full HD (1920px X 1080 px),
Frame Rate: 20 Frames per second,
Filter: Black Polymer filter from Thousand Oaks Opticals.
Timing recording method: Beeper Sync Software and Verbal Announcement by Looking at GPS Screen.

The setup successfully recorded spectacular video of beading phenomenon at a very high resolution. The beading can be seen in the video for over 1m 30sec before second contact and over 1m after 3rd contact. This hi definition footage can be termed as the first one ever taken from India by group of astronomers apart from the research institutions working in this field.

The feed from this was streamed live intermittently on Aaj Tak TV channel as an exclusive coverage.

Two exciting possibilities are being considered to analyze the data:
a) See how the data can be used to help the research by IOTA to measure the Solar Diameter

b) Co-relate the lunar limb profile generated from beading phenomenon with Kaguya lunar limb profile. (method: http://www.digitalsky.org.uk/3cls/3cls.html)

2) Photography of the Eclipse
Equipment Used: Cannon 450D DSLR at prime focus behind 110mm dia/700mm fl William Optics Refractor Telescope piggy backed in 10" Meade LX200 telescope.

Filter: Black Polymer filter from Thousand Oaks Opticals.
Software used: Images Plus
The annularity was shot with filters on.
Images of the eclipse have been uploaded at:

3) Webcast

A live webcast was shown on www.eclipsechasers.org
1.3 mp webcam was linked to a 50mm achromat with 300mm fl and it was streamed live on the www.ustream.tv In all 106876 views were recorded on the website making it the most viewed site on the day of the eclipse for webcast on ustream in eclipse webcasts. Most of the TV channels used the webcast to shoe the eclipse from Varkala!!

4) HD Video of the eclipse with a Handy Cam

HD Video of the whole eclipse duration was shot with sony handycam mounted on meade lx200 10” at 1920x1080 pixels resolution. Soon the whole footage will be available online.

VI.                SPACE at Dhanushkodi, Tamilnadu

SPACE C.M.D. Mr. Sachin Bahmba travelled from varkala, kerala especially to Dhanushkodi to meet Tamilnadu Governor Mr. Surjit Singh Barnala and to show him the ASE. Mr. Bahmba showed the eclipse to the Governor and other dignitaries. Lt.  Governer of Pondicherry Mr. Iqbal singh also was treated to the rare phenomenon of annularity. Lot of police personnel and public viewed the eclipse from the 76mm telescope with special filters mounted  for eclipse viewing.

STEPL (SPACE Technology and Education Private Ltd.) partnered with Luis Cruises India to take an avid crowd of passengers aboard the luxury liner Aquamarine from Kochi to Maldives and back to view the Annular Solar Eclipse. Over 650 people were on board to enjoy the ships amenities as well as star parties and navigational tips. The eclipse was viewed from the docked point close to Male, which is along the Central annularity line therefore a great view of the Annular Eclipse was observed by about 100 people, although the clouds made only 1 min 20 sec of the eclipse visible. This eclipse cruise was a first time path breaking concept in India. This innovative feat has now placed SPACE in the unique position of having organized eclipse watches from Earth, sky and now Water. Mr Amit Verma, Preshanth J, Shubham Garg and Mrs Pooja Kumar were part of the SPACE team which interacted with passengers and showed them the eclipse.

VIII.           ECLIPSE CRUISE ABOARD VRINDA, 14-15th Jan 2010
STEPL also partnered with the Oberoi Vessel Vrinda to take people aboard a motor cruise starting at Vembanad Lake and travelled along the backwaters of Kerala to show them the eclipse from the water. Guests were assisted in photographing and observing the eclipse by Mr. Nikhil Pawar, scientific officer.

SPACE had set up an interaction session with Prof. Jay Pasachoff at Apeejay Pritampura School, where he gave the students a presentation on ‘Eclipses and experiences’, and the students interacted with him after that via a questions and answers session. The SPACE team also shot a documentary footage of him covering his experiences.

SPACE regional centres in Hyderabad, Banglore and Kolkata also organized public observations on the day of the eclipse to make general public aware of the event. Detailed reports are awaited.

All India radio did a talk show on the eclipse on 15 january, 2010 in which President SPACE, C B Devgun, discussed various ways to see the eclipse safely.

Pictures of the ASE taken by SPACE teams can be seen at:

Recordings of the webcast of the ASE provided by the SPACE team from Varkala is available at www.ustream.tv

For details contact
Mila Mitra
Scientific Officer

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