An annular solar eclipse on January 15, 2010, which is the longest solar eclipse in duration since 1992, will mark the first of four eclipses throughout the year. This eclipse will be visible from a track that goes across central Africa, the Indian Ocean and eastern Asia.

Longest Solar Eclipse Since 1992

The eclipse’s annular phase will last for about 11 minutes and eight seconds, which is the longest lasting solar eclipse since the annular solar eclipse on January 4, 1992, which lasted for about 11 minutes and 41 seconds. This duration will not be equaled or exceeded until the annular solar eclipse of December 23, 3043, which is 1033 years ahead of 2010.

Where is the Eclipse Visible?

The maximum eclipse point occurs in the middle of the Indian Ocean, but the annular phase can still be seen from either Africa or Asia. People in the towns of Bambari and Bangasou, in the Central African Republic, can witness the annular eclipse at sunrise before it moves towards Uganda. The capital city of Kampala will witness seven minutes and 39 seconds of annularity but the sun will be only 20 degrees above the eastern horizon at the time.

The city of Nakuru, in Kenya, will have more than eight minutes of annularity, while from the country’s capital of Nairobi, the annular phase will last just under six minutes. Annularity will cross southern Somalia before leaving towards the Indian Ocean.

The Maldives will witness the eclipse’s annularity for 10 minutes and 44 seconds, before the eclipse moves past south-east Bangladesh and passes the towns of Akyab and Mandalay in Myanmar (Burma).  The path then moves to China, where the city of Nanyang witnesses the eclipse for seven minutes and 26 seconds while Xuzhou sees it for six minutes and 56 seconds. Chongqing, which saw the total solar eclipse of 2009, will also witness the annular eclipse for seven minutes and 50 seconds.

The Eclipse’s Path

The eclipse’s annular path begins in the western part of the Central African Republic at 05:14 Universal Time (UT). The shadow then passes through Uganda, Kenya and southern Somalia, while the central line duration of annularity grows from seven to nine minutes.

The antumbra (“negative” shadow of the moon that appears when the moon is on the far side of its orbit and its umbral shadow is not long enough to reach earth) crosses the Indian Ocean for the next two hours, with its course moving from east-south-east to northeast. The greatest eclipse occurs at 07:06:33 UT when the eclipse magnitude reaches 0.9190. The eclipse path’s width is 333 kilometers (about 207 miles) and the sun is 66 degrees above the flat horizon formed by the ocean. The duration of annularity is 11 minutes and eight seconds when this occurs. This will be the longest annular duration until December 23, 3043, which is more than 1000 years ahead.

The eclipse continues northeast where it finally encounters land in the Maldive Islands at 07:26 UT. The capital city, Malé, experiences an annular phase lasting 10 minutes 45 seconds. When the antumbra reaches Asia, the central line passes directly between the southern India and northern Sri Lanka at 07:51 UT. Both regions are within the path where maximum annularity lasts 10 minutes 15 seconds. The eclipse shadow reaches then Myanmar (Burma) where the central line duration is eight minutes and 48 seconds, and the sun’s altitude is 34 degrees.

The eclipse’s central line will enter China at 08:41 UT. The shadow crosses the Himalayas through the Yunnan and Sichuan provinces. As mentioned earlier in this article, Chongqing will witness a duration of seven minutes 50 seconds. The antumbra’s speed then increases as the duration decreases as it passes through the Shaanxi and Hubei provinces afterward. In its final moments, the antumbra travels down the Shandong peninsula and leaves earth’s surface at 08:59 UT.