Taregna, Bihar: In the end, spoilsport monsoon clouds eclipsed Taregna’s astronomical hopes. Unexpected clouds hung over the celebrity village from Tuesday evening. They hovered all morning and prevented a horde of tourists, astronomers and residents of nearby villages from witnessing the second last time the moon would devour the sun over India’s mainland this century.
But the 5,000-plus crowd cheered and whistled for a few minutes between 6.24am and 6.30am on Wednesday, when the village momentarily went dark, during the eclipse’s most exciting, so called “totality phase”.
“We managed to grab some pictures of the corona when the eclipse was partially visible for a while,” said Ritwick Parashar, an astrophysicist based out of Kolkata. “They won’t make great photos, but they are valuable research data nevertheless.” Parashar was among the several astronomers who had come from across India for the eclipse.
With extremely limited lodging facilities in Taregna, villagers had been working double-time to furnish the local hospital, which by virtue of being the tallest building, was expected to host visitors in its compound and terrace.
By 3am, the compound premises were completely packed. Added to the stargazers, were several companies of policemen, posted to counter a Bihar bandh (shut Bihar), issued by Maoist groups.
Jacques Coulliere, a French social worker, who’d planned his India vacation just to watch the eclipse, was visibly disappointed. “I should have just gone to Varanasi. But it’s just bad luck. Maybe I will get lucky in Chile (where the next total eclipse will occur in 2012).
Meteorological department officials say there was always a 44% chance of the rain playing spoilsport, even when Nasa made its predictions. “ A low pressure system formed quite rapidly in the Bay of Bengal, during the last 48 hours and that pushed the rain clouds here,” said U.N. Sinha, a Met official.
Chief minister Nitish Kumar, who was also among the disappointed spectators here, put a positive spin to the event. “At least this means monsoons have come when we need them most. There will be good rain over the next few days.” A poor monsoon in Taregna has seen farmers plant less than 10% of the rice, they usually sow by late July.