Partial eclipse greets Sunday early birds

2015-09-13 13:17
File: AP

File: AP

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Johannesburg - South Africans who rose early on Sunday morning and happened to look skywards might have noticed a slice of the sun covered in darkness.

It is not the beginning of the apocalypse, but rather a partial eclipse. The partial eclipse began just before 06:45 on Sunday morning, reached its zenith around 07:35, and finished just after 08:33.

According to Astronomical Society of Southern Africa, Johannesburg Centre chairperson and viewing officer Jerome Jooste, 17% of the sun was covered at maximum extent of the partial eclipse.

"A partial eclipse such as this one occurs due to the fact the shadow of the moon actually crosses the earth," Jooste told News24.

"Anybody who isn't in the absolute line of totality, which is where the deepest shadow crosses part of the Earth, will always only observe a partial eclipse. So for most people on the planet, partial eclipses are more common than total eclipses."

Regarding Sunday's partial eclipse, the shadow of the moon just due south of Antarctica.

"People in the Cape saw the eclipse to a greater degree to what we did in Johannesburg, and people down in Antarctica would have seen it a bit deeper," Jooste said.

Different types of filtrations for the sun

"Nobody on the planet would have seen it as a total eclipse."

As your parents have likely told you, Jooste said it's a "very bad idea" to directly look at the sun without the proper solar filters.

"You get different types of filtrations for the sun. They come in different degrees. If you are going to look at the sun with the naked eye or a device, you must make sure you have a certified solar filter," he said.

"Home suggestions such as using a tea bag is not a good idea at all, because it doesn't protect your eyes against UV rays."

However, a pinhole camera is very effective, since you are not looking directly at the sun.

"You must make a tiny hole into the sheet and then project that onto a wall. You will then see an image of the sun but you not looking at the direction of the sun," Jooste said.

Lunar eclipse

The next time South Africans can expect to see a partial eclipse will be on September 1 2016.

"The path of totality for 1 September 2016 crosses through Central Africa, through the Atlantic Ocean, and runs through the Indian Ocean just south of Australia," he said.

"It will be a greater extent to what we saw now."

Apart from partial solar eclipses, South Africa can also expect a lunar eclipse in the late evening of September 27 and early morning of September 28.

"We will only see it here in SA on the 28th," Jooste said.

"A lunar eclipse only occurs when its full moon, and solar eclipses only occur in the new moon. Now, the exact opposite occurs when the Earth moves between the moon and the sun, where the earth's shadow falls across the moon."

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