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Nigerians troop out en masse for eclipse

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*How eclipse can generate foreign exchange for Nigeria – NARSDA DG

By Emeka Mamah, Clifford Ndujihe, Evelyn Usman Emmanuel Elebeke, Susan Onuorji, Chiamaka Ajeamo & Rebecca Amos

SINCE May 20, 1947, when people in Nigeria witnessed total darkness for a few minutes in the afternoon during the eclipse of that year, many Nigerians have always looked forward to an eclipse hoping that the 1947 event would recur.

It was, therefore, not surprising that Nigerians, in many parts of the country, yesterday, trooped out to observe the annular eclipse.

Students from various schools observe the annular solar eclipse at National Space Research and Development Agency (NSRDA) in Abuja on Thursday . Photo by Gbemiga Olamikan
Students from various schools observe the annular solar eclipse at National Space Research and Development Agency (NSRDA) in Abuja on Thursday . Photo by Gbemiga Olamikan

A solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between earth and the sun, thereby totally or partly obscuring the image of the sun for a viewer on earth. A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon’s apparent diameter is larger than the sun’s, blocking all direct sunlight, turning day into darkness.

An annular solar eclipse happens when the moon covers the sun’s centre, leaving the sun’s visible outer edges to form a “ring of fire” or annulus around the moon.

Nigerian cities and towns where people observed the eclipse with rapt attention for over two and half hours, yesterday,  included Nsukka, Lagos, Abuja, Maiduguri, Sokoto, Anyigba, Kano, Osogbo, Benin City, Port Harcourt and Auchi.

UNN staff, students view eclipse with shades

At the University town of Nsukka, staff and students of the University of Nigeria, UNN,  observed the eclipse at the Christ Church Chapel field in the university.

Astronomy and Astrophysics Research Group of the university led by Prof. Augustine Ubachukwu had informed members of the university community that the eclipse would be partial in the south eastern part of the country and also provided observers with Eclipse shades.

Among those, who observed the eclipse as early as 7.30am, were the Registrar, Chris Igbokwe; Deputy Vice-Chancellors, Professors James Ogbonna (Academics); Charles Igwe (Administration) and a host of other lecturers from the Department of Physics and Astronomy.

Ogbonna said the experience was beautiful, adding that in his primary school days, he and other pupils used to observe eclipse with water in a white basin. “Today, technology has made it easier,” he added, and commended the research group not only for sensitising the university community on the eclipse but also providing Eclipse Shades for viewers.

Also, Prof Igwe said that observing the eclipse was both scientific and fun, pointing out that both “the observatory arrangement by our Astronomy and Astrophysics Research Group shows that our scientists are working, I am very proud of them.”

The Coordinator of the Astronomy and Astrophysics Research Group, Prof. Ubachukwu said the partial eclipse took “full effect around 8:00am after which the separation started.”

We can generate revenue from eclipse – Mohammed

Director General of National Research and Space Development Agency,  NARSDA, Prof. Seidu Mohammed, has said that the occurrence of eclipse was capable of generating  billions of dollars for the economy through tourism.

Prof. Mohammed,  made the assertion, yesterday, during the observation of the annular eclipse at Obasanjo space centre, Abuja.

The DG, who dismissed the erroneous belief that the occurrence of eclipse signifies the anger of the gods, said that such occurrence was natural and  can add value to the nation’s economy by attracting tourists from all parts of the world to Nigeria.

He stressed the need for the sensitization of Nigerian public about the causes of eclipse as against the erroneous belief, describing it as a major scientific issue that occurs when the three celestial bodies (the sun, earth and moon)  come to alignment.

“We must understand that in some places, it attracts tourism. As we speak, in Indonesia, it is lasting for about two hours with total darkness, as advertised in the last two weeks and thousands of tourists are there. What it means is that hoteliers and tourists are smiling home in Indonesia. We can develop our own because it can last for hours. That is why we brought children to learn and they are happy.  We must train them as scientists.

“We must diversify our economy through focus and commitment on space technology, we must train people on it, and this is a major platform for that. We must sensitise people to know that this is a national phenomenon within the celestial bodies and that God is not angry with us as some people believed. We are happy at it because it is normal,” he said.

Mohammed, however, apologised to Nigerians for the partial eclipse experienced in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja contrary to the annular eclipse earlier announced by the agency.

This came after many spectators gathered at the National Space Research and Development Agency to catch a glimpse of the annular eclipse announced by the Agency.

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