Tuesday September 24 2013

The hybrid eclipse: Uganda will have the best view

The hybrid eclipse: Uganda will have the best view


By Abdulaziizi K. Tumusiime

“….The scenery is different, the vegetation is different, the climate is different, and, most of all, the people are different from anything elsewhere to be seen in the whole range of Africa ... I say: ‘Concentrate on Uganda’. For magnificence, for variety of form and colour, for profusion of brilliant life - bird, insect, reptile, beast - for vast scale -- Uganda is truly the pearl of Africa.”

These were the remarks of Sir Winston Churchill, in 1907, after traversing the country and being amazed by its distinguished beauty. 106 years later, that Uganda is the pearl of Africa, is still the best and renowned compliment that the country has received in acknowledgement of the generosity that mother nature showered it with. And, God or Mother Nature, depending on how you look at it, has given us reason to bear it in mind, again. On November 3rd, Uganda will be one of the few countries in Africa where a rare type of eclipse – the Hybrid eclipse – will be observed. The rest of the countries are Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Gabon.

Benon Fred Twinamasiko, a lecturer at the physics department of Makerere University, says that of all the other African countries, Uganda is where the best view of the eclipse will take place.

“In countries like Gabon and DRC, most of the areas where the eclipse’s path runs through are covered by rain forests. Such areas are prone to precipitation, and the cloud cover that comes with it makes it impossible to observe the eclipse. The eclipse is seen when there is a clear cloud,” explains the lecturer, further adding, “In Kenya, the eclipse will occur in the Turkana region which is largely a desert region. In Somalia, the instability in the country makes it a no go area for an eclipse chaser. But, in Uganda the eclipse will be viewed, in districts like Gulu, Arua, Pakwach, Lira and Soroti which are peaceful and have a multitude of other tourism related activities that one can engage in.”

There are four types of eclipse, namely, annular, eclipse, hybrid and partial. Twinamasiko says that total eclipse takes place when the moon is between the sun and the earth. He illustrates that when this phenomenon occurs, a shadow is cast upon the earth’s surface thus creating a moment of darkness or special effects can be seen, such as a “a ring of fire” around the sun. The lecturer states that annular eclipse occurs when the moon is too far away from the earth to completely cover the face of the sun, leaving a ring of the sun around the edges of the moon.

“Hybrid eclipse is a rare type of eclipse. It is a fusion of total and annular eclipse. This is because observers in one part of the earth observe annular eclipse while other observers in another part of the earth experience total eclipse,” he says.

The lecturer states that the eclipse will start from the Atlantic south of Bermuda triangle and end in Somalia. To clarify the hybrid phenomenon, he says that from the Bermuda triangle to the coast of Gabon, the eclipse will be an annular one and from the coast of Gabon stretching through our own Gulu district to Galcaio in Somalia where the eclipse will end, it will be total eclipse.

He mentions that Gulu lies at the centre of the eclipse’s path and thus that is where the most exhilarating experience will be. He states that people who will be in the district will see total darkness. “The darkness will last a period of 1 minute and 11 seconds, minimally and one minute and 40 seconds maximally,” says the lecturer.

Twinamasiko says that if you have the means, you can go an extra mile to make the experience memorable by charting a plane to track the eclipse from Gabon to Somalia. He notes that the eclipse will not literally end, but rather, it will happen in Somalia during evening hours when it is about to get dark. So the night will simply set in.

He concludes that the last hybrid eclipse occurred on March 16th, 1466. After the one in November 3, this year, the next one will take place on June 3rd, 2114.

This is definitely a moment to be proud of and the tourism sector should create as much awareness and milk the event for all its worth.