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Solar Eclipse Fever Hits Indonesia

Tia Asmara
Jakarta
2016-03-08
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AFP
Journalists take pictures of a display explaining a total solar eclipse at a press conference in Jakarta, Feb. 11, 2016.

Indonesians awaken Wednesday to a total solar eclipse, a rare occurrence that will take place along an arc cutting across a large section of the archipelagic nation.

In the span of a few minutes, the moon will pass between the sun and the earth, blocking out the sun completely and plunging parts of Indonesia into total darkness.

The eclipse will be visible in 12 of Indonesia’s 34 provinces and will stretch from Sumatra to Kalimantan and Maluku, according to Avivah Yamani, an astronomer with the Community of the Southern Sky, an Indonesian association of star-gazers.

“Even though a total solar eclipse happens once in every 18 months, it does not happen in the same place,” Avivah, an alumnus from the astronomy department at the Bandung Institute of Technology, told BenarNews.

"It is estimated that the next eclipse like this may happen again in 2042, but [will] be seen from different areas.”

According to the Associated Press, the path of the total solar eclipse will measure only 100 to 150 km (62 to 93 miles) wide, but will sweep across a section of Indonesia joining the Indian and Pacific oceans.

A partial solar eclipse will be visible in other parts of the country, from Aceh province in the far west to Papua province in the far east.

In Jakarta, the eclipse will “only be 88 percent,” Avivah predicted.

Caution: wear special glasses

According to data from Indonesia’s National Institute of Aeronautics and Space (LAPAN), the eclipse will have the longest duration – 3 minutes and 17 seconds – over Plum Island, Maba, in North Maluku.

However, Avivah warned that people keen to watch the eclipse should protect their eyes by wearing special glasses with special filters.

"We can watch, but must use proper sun-filter glasses, not the usual sunglasses,” Avivah said.

"In fact, when the sun is fully covered, we can see it with the naked eye but have to be quick, because the rays at this stage are very dangerous,” she explained.

High enthusiasm

The astronomical phenomenon has generated much buzz across Indonesia, with at least a half-million domestic tourists and 5,000 foreign tourists converging on parts of the country where the total eclipse will be visible, according to tourism officials.

Marina Ariyani, 30, who works for a company in Jakarta, traveled to Palembang in South Sumatra to witness the rare occurrence.

She booked her plane ticket a month ago and bought a pair of special glasses for eclipse-viewing.

"This natural phenomenon is very rare. I want to see it first hand and witness the rare moment,” Marina told BenarNews.

Reseno Arya, an employee at the Ministry of Tourism, said hotels were now fully booked and prices for plane tickets had soared as a result of the excitement around the eclipse.

The ministry was distributing 20,000 pairs of the special glasses for free, he told BenarNews.

Special prayer

Meanwhile the Ministry of Religious Affairs called on Muslims to offer a special prayer during Wednesday’s total eclipse.

The nation’s main Istiqlal Mosque in Jakarta was scheduled to hold a solar eclipse prayer at 6:20 a.m. (local time) until the eclipse ends.

"People in Indonesia are called upon to carry out the eclipse prayer in mosques and nearby mushalla, according to the time schedules of the eclipse in each place," said Machasin, the head of the ministry’s department of Islamic Community Supervision.

Officials at the ministry are hoping that the natural occurrence will help galvanize people’s faith in God, he added.

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