How the solar eclipse was viewed in the olden days

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By Karen Bong

SERIAN, Dec 26: People craned their necks to gaze in wonder at the sky as the moon paired with the sun for a short but memorable three minutes in 20 years.

Temperatures dropped and the surrounding dimmed to an orange glow in the middle of the day as the annular solar eclipse raced through Sarawak on Boxing Day today and people were wowed by the sight.

The spectacular phenomenon unfolded at about 1.40pm when the shadow of the Moon started to slide onto the sphere of the Sun. The peak of the eclipse was at 1.49pm as the moon was the closest to the sun’s centre.

Kampung Pichin village chief Rioi Lagit, 69, shared some folklore about the belief that the eclipse was caused by a dragon eating the sun, after watching the eclipse from Kampung Pichin here today.

“In the olden days, people believed that when an eclipse occurred, the dragon was eating up the sun.

“So on this day, villagers will come out and beat the gong or anything which they can drum to create noise as well as burn things to send smoke up to the sky to scare the dragon from swallowing up the Sun,” she told DayakDaily.

Rioi pointed out that the annular solar eclipse today was indeed a meaningful and great experience in two decades especially to educate the young generation.

“We can only see this phenomena in 20 years. I told my grandchildren that this was a rare opportunity to see the eclipse or else we would have to wait another 20 years for the next one,” she added.

The annular solar eclipse observation programme at the village here was organised by Serian MP Datuk Richard Riot to enable locals and visitors to have the opportunity to catch a glimpse of the ‘ring of fire’ while also celebrating Christmas and Boxing Day.

“When I read about this three months back, I had already started wondering, ‘Why was Serian in the path of the eclipse in 22 years?’ So I made a point that this event must be celebrated so this programme was organised.

“I am not being over superstitious, but it occurred here in Serian, so I think it is a good omen, particularly for Serian,” he said.

Riot believed that Serian, with a majority of the population being Bidayuh, would be showered in blessings.

“I hope there will be better things ahead,” he added.

Meanwhile, Liz Trissia, 18, and her friends who were the performers at the event said it was a great occasion to end the year.

“It is a rare event and we are very happy to be able to see the eclipse.

“We hope there will be something better ahead in the new year,” she added.

An annular solar eclipse differed from a total solar eclipse as the moon does not completely obscure the sun as the moon is farther away from us than normal, making it appear smaller.

As a result, the sun is not totally eclipsed, creating a ‘ring of fire’ effect, or annulus – a thin ring of sunshine that surrounds the silhouette of the Moon.

The next annular solar eclipse to be be seen from Sarawak will be in 2063.

The last annular solar eclipse that occurred in Malaysia was 21 years ago on Aug 22, 1998. It was seen in Mersing, Johor. —DayakDaily