On the 26th of December, Oman will bear witness to an astronomical event that last took place in the country more than a hundred years ago. That day, which happens to be a Thursday, will see a total solar eclipse form in the skies above Oman, and it is definitely not an event to be missed. While there are many in the country (and maybe, beyond Oman’s borders as well) who have already made plans to secure a vantage point from which to see the total solar eclipse, there will be many who will definitely be keen on seeing it, but haven’t quite got around to planning their trip, or don’t know how to do so.
This week, T Weekly speaks to Oman Astronomical Society on their plans around the upcoming solar eclipse.
A group of people who are passionate about space and the stars, Oman Astronomical Society have organised a viewing camp for those who wish to see the eclipse. The camp, which is at Ras Al Ruways in the Sharqiyah Governorate, will take place on Wednesday, 25 December, and Thursday, the 26th, making the week of the eclipse a great one on which you can take a long weekend.
“I would like to share with you news of a major astronomical activity that is going to happen in the Sultanate of Oman, on the 26th of December, 2019,” said amateur astronomer Abdul Wahab Al Busaidi, as he explained the phenomenon of the solar eclipse. “This event is very unique, where the moon will literally overlap with the sun and create this phenomenon known as the ring of fire. The whole activity will last about two hours, but the full annular eclipse will last for two minutes or a little bit more than that.
“The best place to view this, of course, is in the belt where the full annular eclipse will be visible, which starts near MasirahIsland, and goes northwest all the way to the borders of Saudi Arabia. The last time such a phenomenon happened in Oman was around 1901,” he explained. “It will start around 6:30am and will end around 8:58am. The best place for you, if you are interested, and I encourage everyone to take this opportunity and look to the sky on that day.”
“The best places in Oman to see this will be Shannah, Ras Al Ruwais, and south of Adam,” he went on to add. “Those who are working in the oil industry in Qarn Al Alam and Fahudwill be able to get the best views. The Oman Astronomical Society is setting up a camp in Ras Al Ruwais, and they will be more than happy to accommodate you and provide facilities such as meals, sleeping tents and so on.”
According to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, the eclipse is expected to begin over Saudi Arabia and pass over parts of Bahrain, Qatar and the UAE, after which it will enter Oman around 2:30am Universal Coordinated Time (6:30am local time), in the form of a partial eclipse. The annular eclipse is scheduled to begin around 3:35am UTC (7:35am local time), will reach maximum eclipse at 3:37am (7:37am local time), before ending a minute later. The end of the partial eclipse will take place at 4:53am Universal Coordinated Time (8:53am local time).
It will then pass over the southern areas of India, before heading to Indonesia and Malaysia, and the lower segment of the Philippines, before ending over the Pacific Ocean.
To raise awareness of the causes of solar eclipse and the methods to watch them safely, the Oman Astronomical Society launched the Annual Solar Eclipse Project 2019, ahead of the actual phenomenon. The project involves spreading awareness of the eclipse in several ways.
“This is a national project organised by the Oman Astronomical Society in collaboration with several government and private entities,” explained Ali Al Shaibani, a society member.
“This project encompasses promotional and awareness campaigns, and also several activities and programmes to observe the Annular Solar Eclipse, which will occur in Oman on the 26th of December, 2019.
“The main programmes and activities of the Annular Eclipse Project 2019 are nationwide public observation activities, promotional tourism campaign, an Annular Eclipse Camp at Ras Ar Ruways, astrophotography exhibition (2020), awareness campaigns on safe observations of solar eclipses, astronomical camp for the hearing impaired, studies and research on solar eclipse phenomena, and educational awareness programmes,” he added.
As part of this programme, the Oman Astronomical Society has been teaming up with several schools, particularly in those areas over which the total solar eclipse can be seen.
Those who live in areas near Qarn Al Alam, Manah, Adam, Al Ashkarah, Muhut, Al Khaufand the Masirah Islands will be able to see a total solar eclipse, early in the morning of 26 December, while those who live in the rest of the country can enjoy a partial eclipse.
“From all areas of Oman, people will be able to watch the solar eclipse,” said Oman Astronomical Society member Issam Al Salhi. “But the people who live in the above areas can enjoy a complete solar eclipse. The others will only be able to watch a partial solar eclipse. We aim, through this project to create a new generation of astronomers to elevate the cultural and scientific awareness of the field of astronomy Oman, and to enhance astronomical observation skills on a national level.”
“We also want to promote scientific tourism in Oman and make it one of the best sites to observe the Annular Solar Eclipse 2019, and educate society members and make them aware of safe methods to observe the eclipse and to conduct public observation events to provide an opportunity to observe the solar eclipse,” he added.
“We need to also encourage photographers to take pictures of the solar eclipse and highlight Oman’s beauty, and encourage researchers to conduct studies on solar eclipse phenomena.”
Oman Astronomical Society members have been collaborating with teaching staff at schools in Oman, and to help fold into existing lesson plans information about the solar eclipse, and have been teaching students – particularly the younger ones – about the dangers of viewing a solar eclipse with the naked eye.
A statement from the Sultan Qaboos School in Jalan Bani Bu Ali, said, “Professor Muhammad Khadem Al Alawi gave an introductory lecture entitled ‘The Annular Eclipse’, which will be monitored in Ras Ruwais by the Oman Astronomical Society on 26 December 2019.”
La’ale Al Alm School, also located in Jalan Bani Bu Ali, held awareness seminars, with the school releasing a statement that said, “Professor Salima Al Harbi presented a video about the phenomenon of the solar eclipse and the types of eclipses, and shared a slide show to first and third graders to show them the occurrence of the annular eclipse.”
Qalhat School added, “Professor Aisha Al Shaibiya, a science teacher, gave a lecture on the annular eclipse, targeting the fifth-grade students within the educational curriculum relating to the subject of the 2019 annular eclipse.”
“Professor Samia Al Hatimiya, a teacher at the school and a member of the Oman Astronomical Society, gave a lecture on the phenomenon of the eclipse at Zainab Al Asadiya School for Basic Education for grades five to 10,” said a representative at that school.
An official from Al Muharbi School added, “Professor ZakiaHamad Al Harbi, presented for second graders a video on the phenomenon of the eclipse of the sun and the types of eclipses, followed by a slide show to see how an annular eclipse occurs.”
A spokesman for the Astronomical Affairs Department at the Ministry of Awqaf and Religious Affairs contributed, “We are delighted to participate in the organisation of the Annular Eclipse Project, with the Oman Astronomical Society, confirming our role in transferring knowledge among Omani society.”
An official from the Hafsa School, another institution where solar eclipse awareness lessons were carried out, said, “To spread awareness of the annular eclipse phenomenon Azza Al Azwania organised a workshop for teachers on the topic, including a video presentation and a scientific explanation of the phenomenon.”
The Abu Muslim School, which is named after the famed Arab scholar Nasser Bin Salem Al Rawahi, saw Oman Astronomical Society member Khaled Al Maharbi interact with the students at the school, with a spokesperson from the school saying, “As part of the educational programme of the 2019 eclipse project implemented by the Oman Astronomical Society, Khaled Al Maharbi, a member of the organisation, presented a lecture for the teachers of the schools in Samail and Bidbid, at the educational training centre in Samail, which was attended by the school.
He is a professional in this matter, and he spoke during his lecture about the eclipse and his occurrence.”
Several organisations have helped in the creation of this Annular Eclipse Project and the accompanying camp. These include Petroleum Development Oman, Oman Data Park, The Research Council, Omran, the Public Authority for Radio and Television, NASA, the Ministry of Awqaf and Rgional Affairs and Oman Tourism.
More information on the camp can be found by or emailing [email protected] or by calling +968-06560560.. – [email protected]
Eye safety during a total solar eclipse
It is never safe to look directly at the sun’s rays – even if the sun is partly obscured. When watching a partial eclipse you must wear eclipse glasses at all times if you want to face the sun, or use an alternate indirect method. This also applies during a total eclipse up until the time when the sun is completely and totally blocked.
During the short time when the moon completely obscures the sun – known as the period of totality – it is safe to look directly at the star, but it’s crucial that you know when to take off and put back on your glasses.
1 As the moon moves in front of the sun, there comes a time when there is a single bright spot left – a bright spot that, in combination with the atmosphere of the sun still visible around the moon, looks like a giant diamond ring.
2 As the moon continues to move, this bright spot may break up into several points of light that shine around the moon’s edges. Known as Baily’s Beads, these are light rays from the sun streaming through the valleys along the moon’s horizon. Baily’s Beads are very short-lived, and may not last long enough to be noticeable to all observers of the total solar eclipse.
3 It is still not safe to look at the sun at this point! Only when these spots completely disappear can you safely look at the sun.
4 Once the Baily’s Beads disappear and there is no longer any direct sunlight coming toward you, you may look at the total eclipse safely.
5 However, you must still be vigilant to make sure you protect your eyes again before the end of totality. The entire total eclipse may take only a minute or two in some locations.
6 As the moon continues to move across the face of the sun, you will begin to see brightening on the opposite side from where the diamond ring shone at the beginning. This is the lower atmosphere of the sun, beginning to peek out from behind the moon and it is your signal to stop looking directly at the eclipse.
7 Make sure you have safety glasses back on – or are otherwise watching the eclipse through a safe, indirect method – before the first flash of sunlight appears around the edges of the moon.
8 Once your eyes are protected again, you may continue to watch the final stages of the eclipse as the end process mirrors the beginning: You will once again see Baily’s Beads and then a diamond ring, before the entire sun is once again visible. (Courtesy: NASA)