Nairobi | many amateur astronomers have had the chance to observe Sunday in the skies over East Africa, for the summer solstice, a rare solar eclipse of type “ring of fire”.
This astronomical phenomenon, which only occurs once or twice a year, began shortly after the rising of the sun in the center of Africa, crossing the democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), South Sudan, northern Ethiopia, before taking the direction of Asia, to finish in the Pacific ocean, to the south of the island of Guam, at 9: 32 GMT.
In this type of eclipse, the Moon passes in front of the Sun, in alignment with the Earth sufficiently perfect to hide it. But not entirely, as during a total solar eclipse: the Moon is not close enough to the Earth, it is an annular eclipse, that is to say, at its maximum, there is a ring around the Sun, called the “ring of fire”.
Curious to Nairobi, Kenya’s capital city, a little away from the right track, were not able to observe a partial eclipse, the clouds that appear for a few seconds at the precise moment when the Moon would have had to come to hide almost entirely the Sun.
In spite of everything, “it was very exciting, because I’m obsessed with the eclipses. It is one of the things that led me to my interest in astronomy,” said AFP Susan Murabana, founder with her husband Chu of the educational programme “Travelling telescope (the telescope roaming).
Installed with their telescope on the roof of a residential neighborhood, they have observed the eclipse of dozens of people, via the platforms Facebook and Zoom.
“We try to avoid normally talk about the sky and clouds, because we believe that it will lead us to unhappiness. But today, there was a lot of luck with the clouds and we managed to see most,” said Susan.
In normal times, she and her husband would probably have brought people to camp near lake Magadi (south), where the sky is usually clearer than in Nairobi.
But due to the outbreak of new coronavirus, movements into and out of Nairobi are prohibited for several weeks.
Susan said that it regretted not to be able to “business as usual” but be happy to have been able to “share” this experience on the social network, promising that it “will chase” other eclipses.
Only 2 % of the Earth’s surface were affected by the total phase of the eclipse, which makes the phenomenon unique.
It is, however, less spectacular than a total solar eclipse, where the position of the Moon in the sky corresponds exactly to that of the Sun and causes the night, as was the case above of France in 1999.