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21 Jan 2009 16:56
A partial eclipse of the sun will be visible from South Africa on Monday, the South African Astronomical Observatory said.
In a statement on the website, researcher Enrico Olivier said the eclipse would only be partially visible in South Africa.
The eclipse would start at 7am and end about 9.30am. At 8.15am the eclipse would be at its greatest.
The best view of the partial eclipse would be from Cape Town, where a 65% eclipse would be seen.
The eclipse diminishes to 23% in Musina in the north of the country.
“This will be the best solar eclipse visible from South Africa for several years—so don’t miss the opportunity,” Olivier said.
“A solar eclipse occurs when the moon moves between the sun and the earth, and casting a shadow on the earth.”
Eclipses only occur during the “new moon” phase of the moon when the moon is between the earth and the sun on its orbital path.
The partial eclipse of the sun would coincide with the launch of the International Year of Astronomy (IYA) 2009, the Department of Science and Technology said.
Spokesperson Zama Mthethwa said: “Making clever use of an astronomically cool opportunity, the official launch timing coincides with a partial solar eclipse ...”
Minister Mosibudi Mangena would officially launch the IYA 2009 at the South African Astronomical Observatory in Cape Town next week.
Declared by the United Nations, IYA 2009 is a global celebration of astronomy and its contribution to society and culture, with strong emphasis on education, public participation and the involvement of young people.
The Astronomical Society of Southern Africa warned people not to look at the eclipse without protecting their eyes.
“Never look at the sun without proper protection—permanent blindness can result from the shortest look through binoculars or a telescope,” it wrote on its website.
A good way to observe the eclipse is to create a pinhole camera that is pointed at the sun and its image projected onto a darkened screen.
Solar filters can also be used to observe the eclipse.
Welders’ goggles or the filters for welder’s goggles with a rating of 14 or higher are safe to use for looking directly at the sun.
They are also relatively inexpensive.
Die Burger reported on Wednesday that it was not safe to use photo-negatives, X-ray photos, sunglasses or stained glass to observe the eclipse.—Sapa
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