Date:17 February 2017 - By: Andries van Zyl
Residents of the Soutpansberg can look forward to yet another view of a partial solar eclipse on Sunday, 26 February, provided it is not overcast or raining.
This will be another rare opportunity to see the solar system in action. For a short time, the moon will pass between the earth and the sun, and instead of seeing the sun as a round disc, it willappear to have a “bite” taken out of it. This “bite” is the moon, and the size of the “bite” changes as the moon slowly moves along.
A solar eclipse occurs when the moon blocks sunlight that normally falls on the earth. (During a lunar eclipse, the earth’s shadow falls on the moon). A solar eclipse can only occur at the time of the New Moon. Because the plane of the moon’s orbit is tilted slightly, in most months the sun–moon–earth alignment is not exact and the moon’s shadow misses the earth. When the alignment is correct, the sun is eclipsed. If the alignment is exact, then the eclipse is either total or annular (ring-shaped), depending on the distance to the moon. If the alignment is good but not perfect, then a partial eclipse is seen.
In a calendar year, between four and seven eclipses (solar and lunar combined) can occur; at least two and at most five will be eclipses of the sun. From any given location, there will be, on average, a partial eclipse every couple of years and a total solar eclipse once every 375 years.
The annular eclipse late in the afternoon of 26 February will be seen across southern Africa and southern South America. The eclipse begins at 14:10 and ends at 19:36. For most sites, the sun will have set before the eclipse ends. For Louis Trichardt, first contact will be at 17:15, with the eclipse reaching it maximum at 18:17.
The Soutpansberg Astronomy Club (SAC) will be supplying a live eclipse feed to various organizations from the club's premises. There will be a bring and braai prior to the eclipse, as well as stargazing after the event. “All are welcome,” invites Kos Coronaios of the SAC. For more information, he can be contacted at Tel 079 148 4934.
WARNING: DO NOT look through binoculars, a telescope, a camera, or anything that magnifies the sun! You will most definitely cause irreversible damage to your eyesight and blind yourself. For more information or safe solar viewing, visit http://assa.saao.ac.za/eclipse2017/ or http://www.eclipseafrica.org/Info/WatchEclipse.shtml
The easiest and safest way to follow the eclipse is to use pinhole-projection. All you need is a sharp pencil and two pieces of paper (see accompanying sketch supplied by the Astronomical Society of Southern Africa).
Andries joined the Zoutpansberger and Limpopo Mirror in April 1993 as a darkroom assistant. Within a couple of months he moved over to the production side of the newspaper and eventually doubled as a reporter. In 1995 he left the newspaper group and travelled overseas for a couple of months. In 1996, Andries rejoined the Zoutpansberger as a reporter. In August 2002, he was appointed as News Editor of the Zoutpansberger, a position he holds until today.