In Malaysia, solar eclipse after 21 years

Superimposed images of the annular solar eclipse combing nine pictures in Shah Alam December 26, 2019. — Picture by Miera Zulyana
Superimposed images of the annular solar eclipse combing nine pictures in Shah Alam December 26, 2019. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 26 — The solar eclipse phenomenon occuring once every several years took place today with a unique difference, as this eclipse took place with both the Sun and Moon in an exactly line with Earth.

The annular eclipse, known in such circumstances as a ring of fire, was last seen in Malaysia in August 1998. Despite cloudy weather in the Klang Valley obscuring much of the view, the eclipse was nonetheless visible at points in time.

Starting at 11.20am, the Moon slowly made its way across the Sun, much to the interest and delight of observers.

Outside of Klang Valley, the eclipse could only be seen at its fullest extent in certain locations, such as in Tanjung Piai in Johor, or Serian and Sri Aman in Sarawak. It is expected to last up until 3.15pm.

Both solar and lunar eclipses have been recorded since the beginning of human history, with the earliest provable solar eclipse occuring on October 30, 1207 BCE. Ancient cultures often tried to explain eclipses as omens and portents.

The ancient Chinese believed an eclipse was due to the Sun being devoured by a dragon, while the Vietnamese and Norsemen of Scandinavia believed it was a gigantic frog and wolves respectively which ate the Sun.

Visitors use the solar filter glasses provided by the National Planetarium to view the annular solar eclipse in the grounds of the National Planetarium in Kuala Lumpur December 26, 2019. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Visitors use the solar filter glasses provided by the National Planetarium to view the annular solar eclipse in the grounds of the National Planetarium in Kuala Lumpur December 26, 2019. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

Others include the ancient Greeks, who considered eclipses to be a sign of divine displeasure and a mark of coming disaster and destruction. In Inuit Eskimo folk belief the solar goddess Malina parted ways with her brother the lunar deity Anningan, and an eclipse occurred when he chased after and caught up with his sister.

In religious beliefs, solar eclipses are usually seen as ill omens. In Hinduism it is attributed to the asura Rahu, who embodies one of the nine major astronomical bodies. Along with his kinsman Ketu, responsible for lunar eclipses, the two Asuras are believed to cause the phenomenon as an act of vengeance against the gods for the deception during the churning of the nectar of immortality as mentioned in several Hindu epics.

During an eclipse, temples are closed off to the public, and devotees spend the time fasting or reciting religious mantras.

On the other hand, eclipses are seen as a sign of God's sacred majesty in Islam, and a reminder for Muslims to always hold themselves in humility.

Others also consider an eclipse to be a reminder of the Day of Judgement. For both a lunar and solar eclipse, special prayers called solat al-Kusuf and solat al-Khusuf are conducted during this time.

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