More than 30,000 foreign tourists are expected to visit Uganda for a rare viewing of the solar eclipse next month in the northern part of the country. The country’s Tourism Ministry officials say they anticipate the event to attract several international eclipse trackers to Uganda to the districts of Nebbi, Arua, Gulu, Soroti and Masindi that will provide the most vintage locations for viewing the rare occurrence of a total solar eclipse on Sunday 3rd November, 2013.
The country has planned several activities to showcase the richness of Uganda’s tourism potential during the event to take advantage of the visiting tourists.
An eclipse of the sun occurs when the moon revolving in its orbit around the earth comes between the sun and the earth. The moon blocks the light of the sun and a shadow of the moon is cast over the earth’s surface.
When the moon passes in front of the sun, the shadow falls on the earth and it appears to exactly cover the sun’s disc. This is what a solar eclipse is – a shadow casted by moon obstructing sunlight from reaching the Earth.
During a solar eclipse, the moon actually casts two shadows towards earth. One shadow shaped like a cone is called the umbra. This becomes narrower as it reaches the earth. No direct sunlight penetrates into this area. The path of this is called the path of totality. If you are positioned in this area then you can see a complete blocking of the sun and view a total solar eclipse. Total eclipse is observable only within a narrow strip of land or sea over which the umbra passes.
The second shadow is called the penumbra which spreads out as it reaches the earth. The penumbra is spread over a large area. People viewing the eclipse from this area of the earth’s surface will see only a partial blocking of the sun.
The tropical regions of Africa will therefore enjoy vintage viewing points of the second and final solar eclipse of the year on November 3, 2013. Most parts of this region will see either a total solar eclipse or a deep partial solar eclipse.
In Uganda, the total solar eclipse track runs across northern Uganda and areas of Nebbi, Arua, Gulu, Soroti, Masindi are expected to see the total eclipse; whereas the rest of the country will see a deep partial Eclipse.
Outside of Africa, a shallow partial solar eclipse shall be seen from eastern North America, southern Greenland, the Caribbean, northern South America, southern Europe, the Middle East and Madagascar.
But according to Michael S. Z Nkalubo, the Tourism Ministry Permanent Secretary, the November 3 will be a hybrid (annular/total) solar eclipse.
This hybrid solar eclipse starts as an annular and soon after becomes total when using the usual eclipse classification based on a smooth lunar limb profile. So most watchers in northern Uganda are likely to view a total eclipse, but even then a truly total eclipse will not be seen until about 16:06:45 local time.
A hybrid solar eclipse refers to a solar eclipse whereby some sections of the central eclipse path are annular whereas other parts are total. If you were at just the right spot in the Atlantic Ocean, you’d possibly see a four-second annular eclipse at sunrise.
According to Jean Meeus and Fred Espenak of National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the eclipse changes from annular to total in just fifteen seconds, and the remainder of the approximate 13,600-kilometer central eclipse track remains total.
The track across Uganda descends from the high mountains along the border with the DRC, crosses the flat plateau north of Lake Albert, climbs over a lower set of hills to reach Gulu, and descends again.
This up-and-down track makes selection of a site in northeast Uganda complicated but the best site – a location north of Lake Albert near Pakwach. The area is protected to the east and west by higher ground and the effects of the nearby lake to the south.
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