Update: Click here for July 22 2009 Total Solar Eclipse!
I was planning to post this on the morning of Chinese New Year which falls on this coming Monday, but you folks have been jamming my emails all week, asking about the eclipse, so I thought ok, I'll post it today since you guys can't wait. Happy now?
The first solar eclipse of 2009 is an annular eclipse, not a total eclipse. An annular eclipse occurs when the Sun and Moon are exactly in line, but the apparent size of the Moon is smaller than that of the Sun. Hence the Sun appears as a very bright ring, or annulus, surrounding the outline of the Moon.
The annular eclipse will be happen on January 26 (Chinese New Year) and will be visible from a wide track that traverses the Indian Ocean and western Indonesia. For those living outside this track (people in the southern third of Africa, Madagascar, Australia except Tasmania, southeast India, Southeast Asia and Indonesia), you will not see the annular eclipse but only a partial one. Timings of the eclipse viewed from respective countries here. Please note that the time given on the chart is in Universal Time.
In Singapore, the partial eclipse will be begin from 4:30PM to 6:30PM (local Singapore time). Maximum eclipse will be at 5:49 PM. The sun will be in the western sky and during maximum eclipse, 72% of it will be covered up by the moon! It will be a pretty impressive sight. Just pray that the clouds stay out of the way.
Please remember that viewing the sun without proper protection is extremely dangerous. Even when 72% of the sun is covered by the moon, the light is still bright enough to blind your eyes. And please do not try to view the eclipse using sunglasses. They will not protect your eyesight. If you have a pair of binoculars or a telescope, please do not look at the sun through them without proper solar filters that are fitted at the front of your instrument, not at the eyepiece!
Ok so you don't have any telescope, how are you going to view Monday's eclipse then? There are a few simple ways to view the eclipse safely. One is to make yourself a pinhole projector. Get a long box (the longer the better), a piece of aluminum foil, a pin, and a sheet of white paper or you can opt for a quick and easy version using just two pieces of cardboard. Instructions here.
But of course, you can always pay a visit to the Singapore Science Centre's Observatory to view the eclipse together with other astronomers. They will have a variety of telescopes there equipped with proper solar filters but it could be very crowded. Details here.
(Graphics above taken from here, here and here)
Update: You can view my pics of the eclipse here.
Update: Lots of you are coming to this page from Google looking for the July 22 2009 total solar eclipse that will be visible in China and India (only partial in Singapore). Here's how you can watch it.
Also read: Catching the next total solar eclipse in our neighbourhood