New Delhi/Bengaluru : The much awaited “Supermoon” became visible in India a little later than expected on Wednesday but when it did, millions of stargazers across the country relished the rare celestial triple delight with a sense of awe.
The January 31 sighting of a “Blue Moon” and a total lunar eclipse occurred in India for the first time after 1982.
While the Moon was in the Earth’s shadow, it took on a reddish tint known as a “blood Moon”.
During the eclipse, the Moon was just a day past perigee which is the closest point to Earth in its orbit — making it appear very large and bright (about 14 per cent) — and so a “Supermoon”.
Lastly, it is also the second full moon of the month, commonly known as a “blue moon”. The last full Moon of the month was on January 2.
Many organisations across the country stepped in to enhance the show which was also visible to the naked eye.
SPACE India, a start-up focused on astronomy education and astro-tourism services, organised several events at various locations across the country to observe the phenomenon from 6 p.m.-9.30 p.m.
At India Gate, SPACE India used the Dobsonian telescope which gave a very clear and crisp view of the “Supermoon”.
The instrument allowed skywatchers to view the Moon 20 times bigger than it appears to the naked eye.
“Apart from Delhi, Space India organised the event in five other cities — Chennai, Bengaluru, Surat, Dehradun and Meerut – and also at DAV school in Gurgaon. Over 500 people gathered at India Gate to watch this phenomenon,” Dr. Mila Mitra, Scientific Officer, Head, Research and Publications, told IANS.
Yashwe, a 7th class student from St. Thomas School at Mandir Marg, said: “It’s a rare opportunity and being a member of an astronomy club, I feel delighted after watching the eclipse live.”
In Bengaluru, thousands of stargazers gathered at the Nehru Planetarium in the city and other open spaces to catch a glimpse of the celestial spectacle.
“This lunar eclipse is special because a Supermoon (when Moon appears larger than usual when its closest to Earth), blue Moon (second full Moon of each month) and blood Moon (Moon appears red during eclipse) will all coincide at once,” its Director Pramod G. Galgali told IANS.
The planetarium in the city centre had hundreds of children, students and adults queuing up to view the once in a Blue Moon event clearly through telescopes and binoculars.
The Indian Institute of Astrophysics in Bengaluru had also set up few telescopes in open spaces for public viewing of the eclipse.
Not just a visual treat, but the celestial spectacle was an opportunity for astronomers to study Earth’s natural satellite, the Moon.
“The lunar eclipse would give scientists a special opportunity to study the Moon using the astronomer’s equivalent of a heat-sensing, or thermal camera,” NASA said in a statement earlier.
The Moon, which goes around the Earth in an elliptical orbit, gets closest to the Earth at one point — known as perigee.
Several Hindu temples were shut across the state on Wednesday, with many devout Hindus staying away from eating till the end of lunar eclipse, as it is feared to be inauspicious.
Renowned Hindu worship places in Karnataka like Manjunatheshwara Temple in Dharmasthala, 300 km from Bengaluru and Krishna Mutt in Udupi, about 400 km from Bengaluru, were shut till the end of the eclipse at about 9.30 p.m.