Eclipse Dazzles West Indonesia Despite Some Clouds and Rain

gerhana-13Residents of Aceh’s capital, Banda Aceh, gathered in front of the Baiturrahman Grand Mosque to view the partial solar eclipse, while people in and around Bandung flocked to the Bosscha Observatory on the outskirts of the city.

In Jakarta, solar gazers crowded the Science Exhibition Center at East Jakarta’s Taman Mini Indonesia Indah complex to witness the phenomenon.

Hakim Luthfi Malasan, an astronomer at Bosscha Observatory, told the Jakarta Globe that it was a “successful viewing” even though rain showers only stopped shortly before 3 p.m. — about 20 minutes into the phenomenon.

“The clouds then diminished and we were able to view the eclipse from 3 p.m. to 3:50 p.m.,” Hakim said, adding that the more than 200 observers were able to get a maximum view at 8 percent visibility.

The observatory provided three solar telescopes for public observation, including a real-time solar telescope designed by astronomers from the observatory and introduced for the first time to the public during the eclipse observation.

“It was assembled and calibrated here, even though we had to import the components from the US,” Hakim said. He added that the telescope could be used for public outreach and research purposes.

The eclipse started at 1:39 p.m. in Aceh as the moon started to cover the sun. It reached its peak at 3:21 p.m., with 46 percent visibility, and ended at 4:45 p.m. It was visible for a shorter time in areas to the south and east.

Putu Lia Suryaningsih, a spokeswoman for the Science Exhibition Center, told the Globe that more than 450 viewers, including 300 high school students, were able to start viewing the eclipse at about 2:30 p.m., despite cloudy weather. They saw the eclipse for less than three minutes before clouds covered the sun again.

At the office of the Aceh Hilal and Rukyat Board, a body that sets the Muslim calendar by sighting the position of the moon, observers and religious officials monitored the solar eclipse with a telescope near Lhok Nga Beach, about an hour south of Banda Aceh.

Al Firdaus Putra, a board observer, said that though the eclipse was obscured by clouds at first, it became clear when it reached its peak.

“This eclipse was less visible than the one that happened in July 2009, when visibility reached 50 percent,” Firdaus said. He added that Aceh had the best visibility in Indonesia because it is situated on the northern tip of the country, closer to central Asia where the best views occurred.