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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Annular Solar Eclipse Expedition 2010 & Outreach Campaign

As many of you are aware, we went on an expedition to bring out a live webcast of the annular solar eclipse that took place on last 15th January 2010. The other priority of this eclipse expedition was to conduct an outreach campaign enabling as many peoples as possible to watch the eclipse with safe methods. (If you have been with my other blog which is dedicated to eclipse 2010, you must have known the whole story, for I brought up an updated bulletin about our eclipse expedition right from the beginning through the end)

Well, I will try to tell you the story without exhausting you guys, because it's bit long, If you really wanna know the eclipse expedition in detail, please check out the January Archive of Eclipse Blog.

Our Expedition crew composed of 10 members, who represent different astronomical associations of Sri Lanka.
In fact we have been doing astronomical programs, outreach projects, podcasts for a quite a period of time. In fact many of us were contributes of prominent astronomy portal of Sri Lanka, Following people were the members of our eclipse expedition crew,

The Eclipse Expedition Team with Sponsor Express Media, Virakesari

1. Thilina Heenatigala – Sri Lanka Astronomical Association
2. Anuradha Jayathilaka - SkyLK
3. Hasitha Karunaratne - SkyLK
4. Imesha Perera – Astronomy & Space Study Center
5. Prasanna Deshapriya – Sri Lanka Astronomical Association
6. ArunaGammanpila - SkyLK
7. Plashthi Kanaththage - Astronomy & Space Study Center
8. Thishan Pavithra - Astronomy & Space Study Center
9. Bhasura Gunawardhana – Royal College Astronomical Society
10. Shamil Asitha Kuruppu - Royal College Astronomical Society

We drove to Jaffna, located at Northern Sri lanka to arrive at the central line of the annular eclipse. I 'd like to recall the sponsorship we got from Express Newspapers and our friend Karthik Vijay in this regard, They supported us with every possible means !!

 Our group photograph in front of the Jaffna Hindu College

Our eclipse observation site as the grounds of Hindu College, Jaffna and we were able to conduct the outreach campaign covering more than 2000 individuals belonging to different ages groups, including school students, teachers, adults and event local police.

Even the teachers being busy with the eclipse

However, we were able to carry out the webcast despite some connection problems that prevailed at regular intervals. Amazingly there was a huge response from the international crowd/ audience to our webcast, My eclipse blog had more than 12,000 visitors with 22,000 + page-views during this single day of eclipse. Moreover unexpectedly the official webcast streaming site ( got suspended due to loads of traffic.

It should also be highlighted that each member of eclipse crew really strove towards achieving this collective goal of bring the eclipse live to everybody with both webcast and outreach campaign. On the day prior to the eclipse (14th) all of us visited the observation site and planned on how the college ground be utilized to better meet our goal. We also had the accompany of our friend Shehal in that evening and afterward as well.

The next day we arrived at the grounds early in the morning and it was the duty of everybody to make sure everything goes well, Hopefully the skies were clear and sunny with less clouds being a good oracle for a big astronomical day that will not be beater for a millennium !!

In the Morning just before the Eclipse : Finalizing the plans

It was needed that the students be advised on eclipses and especially on how to observe the eclipse, without damaging their eyes, Our crew member Thilina gave a talk in the Morning addressing a group of students totaling around 1000 to cover that, this was translated to Tamil by Express Newspapers correspondent Uma, giving us the necessary help to communicate with students, most of whom were fluent only in Tamil.

We had made all arrangements by 11 o'clock and were waiting for the eclipse to happen. As soon as the eclipse started, there were bunches of people coming and joining us. Meantime we had to handle the crowd and manage the webcast going. However as I told earlier the connections only got better after 1.30 pm.

The live streaming webcast & technical stuff

We got the school students queued and let them watch the eclipse one by one, with properly shaded welder's glasses. We used 11'', 13'' and 14'' through out the outreach event.

Students, observing the eclipse with safety precautions !

What a long queue !!

When the annular phase started, we were able to get the a live image of the eclipse projected to a wide screen, so that it could be seen by everyone directly without any aide. It was really an unforgettable experience being in such a situation amidst a heap of enthusiastic crowd witnessing a lifetime experience,
I should also mention that astrophotography was also in progress while the eclipse was taking place.

Our friend Shehal, had the greatest shots as far as I was concerned, You can see his photo set here
Many of us took many photos featuring different phases of the eclipse and we had to answer numerous questions asked by school kids,

In the end eclipse was over leaving behind loads of unforgettable memoirs !!

One such thing is the Ring of Fellowship that you can see below, in addition to the Ring of Fire. This photograph was taken during the sun set from the Jaffna Fort,

The eclipse expedition crew & The Ring of Fellowship !!

Hats off to the eclipse expedition crew for committing towards such a worthy task !!

Here are some of the photos I've taken,

Just after the 1st contact of Annular Eclipse

The Annular Phase projected to a screen !!

The following is the best video we have made featuring the annular phase of the solar eclipse on 15th January 2010, you can see the Ring of Fire !!