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Eclipse draws people out of their homes

Special Correspondent

— Photo: G. Moorthy

Rare view: Children witnessing the annular solar eclipse in Madurai on Friday.

MADURAI: They came with their families, children and grandchildren included. The rare event of the moon covering the sun, to form an annulus (ring), was witnessed by people on North-West Masi Street Junction on Friday using filters provided by the Tamil Nadu Science Forum (TNSF), a telescope that reflected the image of the sun on a plain paper, welding glasses bought from nearby shops and images splashed on walls by nature.

Unlike normal eclipse days when people prefer to keep indoors, watching television programmes, movement of vehicles was normal on a holiday on the streets of Madurai. People watched the annual eclipse using filters at several points, including the Mariamman Teppakulam, and their homes.

The focal point was the North-West Masi Street Junction where the TNSF had organised an ‘Annual Eclipse Awareness Pongal,’ in association with the Madurai Kamaraj University Faculty Association.

People started to gather at the venue from 11 a.m. Members of the TNSF explained to them individually the significance of the celestial event in an attempt to erase from their minds the superstitious beliefs surrounding an eclipse. Pamphlets and books on the annular eclipse were distributed to the public.

In order to reinforce the scientific nature of the event, people ate food during the course of the eclipse.

Pongal was cooked and served to the public at around 1.15 p.m. when the eclipse was nearing its peak.

S. Krishnaswamy, president, TNSF, said that the objective of the event was to infuse scientific temper and an analytical approach to common issues among the public, especially children.

The response to the event, he said, was good.

Members of TNSF raised slogans hailing the celestial bodies.

Those who had gathered at the place in the morning remained till 1.20 p.m. to witness the annular effect. Foreign tourists, who had come to the city to take part in the Pongal festival, enthusiastically joined the locals in witnessing the celestial event.

They also ate food to drive home the point that the sun did not emit any additional rays during an eclipse and it was safe to eat.

Most of the hotels, restaurants and tea shops in the city did business as usual and only a few had downed their shutters during the eclipse.

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