Kids New Year’s Eve Gift from the Sky

Though this year was a bit of disappointment for those kids who expected to see eclipses as well as those who asked questions eagerly about eclipses, they will not remain disheartened for long.  There is a New Year gift waiting for them.  The first will take place in the final hours of this year while a far more precious reward for the long wait will be presented two weeks later.

On 31st December with the moon in Full phase, a small portion of the Moon, about 8%, will be hidden from view during the partial eclipse of the Moon.  Just before 10 pm, at 9:53 pm when the Moon will be in the east, about half way up the sky, the moon will slowly begin to be covered from the bottom by the Earth’s shadow.  In the next half hour, by around 10 30 pm, about 8% of the moon will be covered up.  After that, in the next half hour, the Earth’s shadow will slowly move away and will leave the Moon from the top at 10:53 pm.  This is indeed a New Year gift, delivered at the right time!!

Another spectacle awaits us two weeks later on 15th January from7:07 am in the morning until 11:17 am.  A major part of the Sun will be blocked from view during the eclipse of the sun.  Actually it is an “annular eclipse” for a few lucky observers in Uganda and Kenya and across the Indian Ocean to India and China.  They will see the Sun almost fully covered up except for a thin ring (called an annulus) around the central dark disk of the Moon. However in Tanzania we will not see the ring since the sun will be covered up from 80% to 90%. This will cause a very huge change in the morning sunshine.

During a Lunar Eclipse, the Earth comes directly between the Sun and the Moon, while in a Solar Eclipse then Moon is in an exact line between the Sun and the Earth.  From Earth, we see that during a Solar Eclipse, the tiny Moon is covering up the mighty Sun.  Why is this so?  The Moon is very small compared to the Sun (400 times smaller) while it is also the same 400 times closer to us than the Sun.  Hence in the sky, we see them having the same apparent size.  This is not easy to see directly since you would be blinded by the Sun if you tried to look at it directly (SO NEVER DO IT!), but if you had special glasses it is quite eye opening to compare the Sun during the day with the full Moon during the night.

UNAWE Tanzania will be more than happy to celebrate the New Year’s Eve gift presented by the sky with all kids in Tanzania. Kids residing at Stakishari Ukonga in Banana will be able to join with Mponda Malozo, while those near Mbezi Sacuveda will be able to join Joeline Ezekiel.  Those near the Solomon Mahlangu campus in (Morogoro) will be able to Join Deodatus Kiriba and Milama Primary School kids will be assisted by their headmaster, and those at Monduli Primary Schools will be coordinated by Essau Loisujaki.

We would like to see science teachers, amateur astronomers, and interested people to take part in the event and let as many Tanzanian kids as possible to start wondering about the beauty to the sky and awake their curiosity.

Make use of our contacts and let us be aware of your activity as well as any assistant if needed

By Dr. N. T. Jiwaji with additions by Mponda Malozo

N:B Eclipse times are very good for catching people’s interest but the group should be prepared about the fact that only a small part from the edge of the moon will be eclipsed.

However some noticeable darkening of the moon’s face should be visible at mid-eclipse around 10:30 pm.  So only with carefully following the brightness of the Full Moon before and after the eclipse time will the eclipse effect will be visible, especially if it is not a clear sky.

The following websites should be useful to prepare people about the eclipse and what to expect.  The last link gives a very good animation of the eclipse.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Lunar_eclipse_chart_close-2009Dec31.png

http://www.timeanddate.com/eclipse/lunar-eclipse-december-31-2009.html

http://www.jodrellbank.manchester.ac.uk/astronomy/nightsky/Eclipse2.jpg

This link gives a very good animation of the eclipse and also of the next partial (annular) solar eclipse on 15th January and of the retrograde movement of Mars.
http://www.shadowandsubstance.com/

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