Exactly 15 years ago today, Ghana and other countries across the globe experienced a total solar eclipse on March 29, 2006, which was one of the most popular astronomical events in the country for decades.
A solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the earth and the sun, thereby totally or partially 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.
The 2006 total solar eclipse was the second incident visible in Africa in just six months and its visibility was across a narrow corridor which traversed half of the earth.
The path of totality of the Moon’s shadow began at sunrise in Brazil and extended across the Atlantic to Africa, traveling across Ghana, the southeastern tip of Ivory Coast, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Libya, and a small corner of northwest Egypt, from there across the Mediterranean Sea to Greece (Kastellórizo) and Turkey, then across the Black Sea via Georgia, Russia, and Kazakhstan to Western Mongolia, where it ended at sunset.
The phenomenon lasted a duration of 247 seconds (4 minutes 7 seconds) and its maximum width band covered an area of 114 miles.
Ahead of the day, a National Planning Committee in collaboration with the Centre for Remote Sensing and Geographic Information Services (CERSGIS), based at the University of Ghana, had sensitized citizens on the occurrence and the need to avoid looking at it with the naked eye as it could cause irreparable eye damage.
The popular trend on the days preceding the event was the special eclipse goggles or solar shades which were fitted with x-ray films to be worn by millions of Ghanaians and foreigners who had traveled into the country to observe the occurrence.
Solar shades were imported into the country by CERSGIS and sold out to schools, government agencies, the district assemblies and to the general public at very affordable prices to enable them view the phenomenon whiles protecting their eyes from the harmful rays of the sun.
Then President John Agyekum Kufuor who was barely nine years old when the last total eclipse occurred in 1947, described the 2006 experience as a “great” one.
“Today, close to 60 years later, it is happening. It shows the beauty and wonders of nature;” he said.
Whiles the total eclipse lasted a little over 4 minutes across Ghana, the journey of the moon across the face of the sun begun around 0800 hours and lasted until about 1000 hours.
Scientists have predicted that the next total eclipse in Ghana will be witnessed in the next 14,276 days on Friday, April 30, 2060, which is about 39 years from now.
Sources: ghanaweb, CERSGIS.