Malta did not plunge into darkness during yesterday’s eclipse but on April 21, 2088, it will be “the best place in the whole world” to see a total solar eclipse, according to Astronomical Society president Alexei Pace.
“It will be a special eclipse,” he said, adding that, on the day, darkness will fall on the whole of the island, when the sun will be completely covered by the shadow of the moon.
There is, of course, the tiny matter that, in 73 years, many of us may not be around to see it but, in the meantime, we can look forward to feasting our eyes on an eclipse that promises to come sooner.
Kristian Zarb Adami, director of the Institute of Space Sciences and Astronomy at the University of Malta, said the next “almost” total eclipse will be on August 2, 2027.
The weather was in our favour. We were very lucky: even though there was a little bit of cloud cover, the eclipse was perfectly visible from our island
This, he said, promised to be even more spectacular than the one observed yesterday.
“The weather was in our favour [on Friday].
“We were very lucky because ,even though there was a little bit of cloud cover, the eclipse was perfectly visible from our island,” Dr Zarb Adami, who also works at the Astrophysics Department of Oxford University, said.
As seen from Malta yesterday, the silhouetted outline of the moon covered a maximum of 49 per cent – almost half – of the sun’s diameter.
“The moon ‘advanced’ across the surface of the sun over the course of two hours and 15 minutes,” Mr Pace said.
This is only an illusion because the moon and the sun are 150 million kilometres away from each other. The moon touched the edge of the sun at 9.21am with the maximum coverage at 10.25am.
The eclipse in Malta ended on last contact at 11.33am.
Although some places in the world plunged into darkness, this was not the case in Malta.
“This is because the thin strip of dark shadow, which the moon casts on earth, which is called the path of totality, only crossed the North Atlantic and Arctic oceans, ending at the North Pole,” Mr Pace added.
There was, therefore, no darkening of the sky because a large part of the sun still shone through.
“With the naked eye one could only see this phenomenon using either special filter glasses or through the shadow of trees, which act as pinholes and project the image of the eclipsed sun onto the ground.”
The solar eclipse was the most popular story on timesofmalta.com yesterday and several readers sent in photos – taken with neutral density filters to reduce the brightness of the sun – which show the outline of the moon.
Northern and mid-Europe had a better view and the sun was completely blocked out on the Norwegian islands of Svalbard, where hotels have been booked solid for the event since 2008.
Superstitions surrounding solar eclipses
• In India, people fast during a solar eclipse because they believe food cooked during this time will be poisonous.
• In Italy, it is believed that flowers planted during a solar eclipse are more colourful than those planted at other times of the year.
• In some cultures it is believed that if a pregnant woman goes out during an eclipse, her baby will be born blind or with a cleft lip.
• It is also said that a pregnant woman should not touch her belly during a lunar eclipse or she will cause her baby to be born with a birthmark.
• One touching Amazonian myth describes the sun and the moon as lovers. They loved each other so much that the sun’s light scorched the earth and the moon’s tears drowned it. So it was decided that they should live apart in the sky and only be allowed to touch each other’s shadow during an eclipse.
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