'A pity if people didn’t know': The astronomy enthusiast bringing rare solar eclipse to the heartlands
SINGAPORE: For the past three months, Mdm Gerardyn Brittos has been hard at work preparing for a rare annular solar eclipse on Boxing Day.
The 46-year-old homemaker and her husband have been working with the Residents Committees to plan and organise a solar eclipse viewing for 300 people in Ang Mo Kio.
More recently, they have also been preparing 300 solar glasses by hand, to be distributed to the public on the day itself.
This involves ordering the paper glasses, folding each of them by hand, and testing each pair under sunlight to ensure that it is in good condition, said Mdm Brittos, who also runs local astronomy Facebook page Stargazing Singapore.
And that’s not all. Mdm Brittos will also be bringing her own eight-inch telescope - one of the bigger types - which will be attached to a DSLR camera. People will be able to see the solar eclipse from the camera’s screen on that day.
“Our aim (of organising this event) is for the heartlanders, who can’t afford to travel out (to see the eclipse),” said Mdm Brittos, who plans to hold the event at the Kebun Baru Spring Amphitheatre.
It is also the first time she is organising a solar eclipse viewing after founding Stargazing Singapore in 2014.
But her interest in astronomy dates back far longer than that. She recalled once, more than twenty years ago, when her colleague brought his telescope to their office and invited everyone to have a look through its lens.
Mdm Brittos gazed into the telescope, and for the first time with her own eyes, saw Jupiter.
“(At the time) I couldn’t believe I could actually see a planet in a telescope,” she said.
She added that she immediately took leave the next day to buy an entry level telescope from the Science Centre, priced at S$600.
Now, armed with more advanced equipment, Mdm Brittos hopes to share her interest in astronomy with the public.
“It’s really something rare, and it’s in the afternoon, so it would be good if people can come out and take a look … It would be a pity if people didn’t know about it,” she said.
ANNULAR SOLAR ECLIPSE
While annular solar eclipses happen once every one to two years around the world, they are a “once in a lifetime” event in Singapore, said the Science Centre.
This is because there will only be three annular solar eclipses visible from Singapore in the 400 years between 1700 and 2100. During the same period, there will be 143 other partial solar eclipses visible from Singapore.
The next one will be a partial eclipse on Jun 21, 2020, while the next annular solar eclipse will be on Feb 28, 2063.
For the uninitiated, an eclipse occurs when an astronomical body such as the moon or a planet moves into the shadow of another such body.
According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), there are three types of solar eclipses: a total solar eclipse, a partial solar eclipse and an annular solar eclipse.
What characterises the annular solar eclipse is the “ring of fire” around the moon when it moves into the Sun’s centre. This is because the moon is at its farthest point from Earth, too small to completely cover the Sun, which leaves the outer edges of the Sun visible.
"What makes them rare is the fact that they are only visible from within a narrow path across the Earth, making it difficult to get to a location to see one," said a Science Centre spokesperson.
This year, the moon will cover about 94 per cent of the Sun, which will make it as dark as twilight, added the spokesperson.
A timeline provided by the Science Centre indicated that the eclipse will happen in stages, starting with a partial eclipse at 11.27am, an annular eclipse at 1.22pm and the maximum eclipse at 1.24pm. Immediately after, the annular eclipse will end, with the partial eclipse ending almost two hours later at 3.18pm.
The Science Centre added that viewers in the northern part of Singapore will only get to see a partial solar eclipse, instead of the full annular solar eclipse.
Other than Singapore, residents in parts of Saudi Arabia, India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Guam will be able to see the annular solar eclipse, said the Science Centre.
It also reminded viewers that protection is required to watch the solar eclipse, as the Sun could cause permanent damage to the eyes, such as blindness.
Some safe methods to view the solar eclipse include using ISO-certified safe solar glasses, pinhole projections or solar viewers to watch the eclipse.
The use of sunglasses, tinted glasses, photographic filters, or even looking at the reflection in a bowl of water or mirror is considered unsafe.
For those interested in viewing the eclipse, there are several places to go.
From 11am on Dec 26, the Science Centre will have their Eclipse Viewing Event, with about 2,000 people expected to attend. There will be an admission fee, and solar glasses will be available for purchase at the Curiosity Shop.
Local astronomy groups will also be holding their own separate viewings, with most of them providing glasses and telescopes, at the following locations:
- Kebun Baru Spring Amphitheatre (Stargazing Singapore)
- Hong Lim Park (Astronomy SG)
- Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park (Singapore Sidewalk Astronomy)
- Marina Barrage Green Roof B (Celestial Portraits)
- National University of Singapore (NUS) field (NUS Astronomical Society)
- PAssion WaVe @ Jurong Lake Gardens (The Astronomical Society of Singapore)