Solar eclipse ‘visits’ Tanzania

The annular solar eclipse, which was fully witnessed yesterday in Rujewa and Wanging’ombe in Mbeya and Njombe regions respectively, attracted thousands of Tanzanians and international visitors who witnessed the historical event that lasted for almost three hours.

People started flocking the site, identified by scientists as the best for viewing the event, early in the morning where they bought special spectacles and other devices for viewing the event. It started at around 10:15 am when part of the sun was covered by the moon, thus causing it to go dim.

Describing the event to thousands of people who gathered at Rujewa village, the Lecturer and Astronomy Expert at the Open University of Tanzania (OUT), Dr Noorali Jiwaji, had earlier told the gathering that the process could take about three hours - from 10am to 2pm.

He explained that the situation resulted from the normal rotation of the sun, earth and moon adding that the annular solar eclipse occurs when the three planets are on the same axis with the moon at the centre, thus covering almost 97 per cent of the sun.

“This is a historical phenomenon although it has been witnessed by a few people. I viewed a similar event for the first time in 1978 at Lembeni in Mwanga District in Kilimanjaro Region and it had never happened again in our country,” Dr Jiwaji remarked.

The crowd around waited anxiously as early as 7am, looking for the first signs of the rare spectacle that has when it happened before unravelled the wonders of astronomy, that branch of science dealing with the study of stars, planets and other objects in the wider universe. Then it happened as the crowd in attendance buzzed with excitement and fascination.

At around 11:53am, the sun was covered by 97 per cent thus changing the sun’s disk to a ring as the weather became cold. The situation lasted for few seconds but as the moon continued to move, the weather in the area returned to normal.

Dr Jiwaji further said that when the sun’s disk changes to a ring, normally the weather also changes and the sun goes dim. He, however, repeatedly warned viewers to use special devices for viewing the event because the sun’s rays had adverse health impacts.

Some people in Rujewa confirmed to have witnessed the event for the first time in their lives, attributing the big turn up to the sensitisation campaigns conducted by theirleaders in the village.

Rujewa High School Headmistress, Ms Olipa Mbupa, said the event was important for students in the village to vividly learn what they have been taught theoretically in class.

According to her, she had witnessed a solar eclipse in the 1970s while she was young and she couldn’t remember how it looked like and that was why she was encouraging more students to take part in the event since it was crucial to their studies.

“By recognising the importance of this event, we have allowed our students from Form One to Form Six to come and witness this historical event because we believe that it will help them in their studies,” Ms Bupa said.

She added that the event was not only crucial for students but also their teachers because only a few of them had witnessed solar eclipse.

Mbeya Regional Commissioner (RC), Mr Amos Makalla, said that the event has been so special in his area because it opened up various business opportunities to residents as the visitors needed services such as transport, food and accommodation.

He said that the annular solar eclipse has also promoted Mbeya Region because visitors also explore various investment opportunities in the region.

“This event has attracted many people, including scientists, researchers, students, teachers and other people to witness how the sun’s disk change to a ring and it has been beneficial to students who have been learning about solar eclipse theoretically,” Mr Makalla told reporters. He, however, said the astronomical event has also helped to promote domestic tourism as most of the people who witnessed the event were ordinary citizens.

The solar eclipse was also partially observed in other regions. From Mwanza, MOSES MATHEW reports that the city experienced a partial solar eclipse for at least two hours, joining the rest of the country to witness a presumable rare scientific occasion.

The incident started at 11:00am to 13:00pm where different areas in the city witnessed a blurred light, symbolising the act of total solar eclipse that was fully witnessed in Njombe and Mbeya. However, many people were seen carrying out their normal activities despite glancing at the rare spectacle as it was unfolding.

Mwanza City residents Fabian Ntobi and Felix Rugemalira, who were interviewed by the ‘Daily News’, said they were surprised though how the solar eclipse that was expected in Mbeya Region could also be felt or seen in the region.

“We still remain ignorant of this rare occurrence until someone tells for sure what it means apart from those theories we learned in Geography during primary school days,” he said.

From Arusha, MARC NKWAME narrates that despite heavy clouds that hung in the atmosphere, residents of this northern Tanzania city also had their fair share of solar eclipse sightings. The dark clouds almost plunged the city into some kind of temporary darkness.

Meanwhile, in efforts to promote tourism sites in Southern Highlands, Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA) yesterday opened the new gate at Ikoga, which will be used by tourists in Songwe, Mbeya and Njombe regions to visit Ruaha National Park without going to Iringa.


Solar eclipse ‘visits’ Tanzania Solar eclipse ‘visits’ Tanzania Reviewed by on 10:33:00 PM Rating: 5

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