Nigerians witnessed the last eclipse before the most recent one in 2013. The nation’s agency, National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA) made sure Nigerians knew about the impending eclipse and even urged school children to visit the agency to witness the great event.
It gave advanced notice that in the Federal Capital Territory Abuja, it was to be partial eclipse, with an obscurity of sixty percent, and the first contact at about 7:17am, with maximum eclipse at 8:32am and end at 10:00am.
In Lagos, it said residents would experience its first contact with the eclipse at 7:15am, with a maximum eclipse occurring at 8:32am and ending at about 10:00am.
The agency also arranged a viewing centre to enable members of the public and students from various schools to view the eclipse using specially designed viewing instruments provided for it.
It said it set up the viewing centre targeted at school pupils and students to observe the annular eclipse as part of its continuous programmes to expose Nigerians and students to matters concerning astronomical environment.
As expected, many students trooped into the headquarters of the agency on the fateful day, September 1 to witness the eclipse. Some of the students who spoke to our correspondent said were eager to witness the eclipse as they had not done so before.
“I am so eager to see the eclipse. When it happened the other time, my mum said I was too young to come watch. So this year, when I had about it, I told my mum that I won’t miss it,” Ibe Michael, a nine-year old student who said he wanted to be an astronomist when he grows up said.
Apart from students, there were many other people who were armed with the solar glasses waited to catch a glimpse of annular eclipse. Journalists were also not left out as they were present to capture the thrill and frill of the event.
Addressing the crowd, the director-general of the agency, Prof Saidu Mohammed, said the natural occurrence was an opportunity for children to start picking interest in sciences, urging everyone to be patient as the eclipse was expected to appear around 8am.
“In 2013, we were here for similar event. We hope it will help teach our children, future scientists what it is all about,” he said.
The sky was cloudy as if it was going to rain as the students and other people stood on ground, waiting as a space scientist and astrophysicist in the agency, Esaenwi Sudum explained that it wasn’t about to rain but it was the eclipse.
At the appointed time, around 8.33am, Sudum urged the children to look up the sky as it was time for the eclipse to come out.
He asked: “Did you see the eclipse?” to which the children shouted, “No!”.
Truly, even with the special glasses, what the children and others around could see was a cloudy sky. The space scientist explained that the eclipse was hidden by the clouds, urging patience on the part of everyone.
True to his words, around 8.48 am, the eclipse appeared to the delight of everyone, especially, the children around.
Those who spoke with LEADERSHIP, expressed delight that they were able to witness it, with some expressing regret that it didn’t last for a long time.
“At first, we didn’t see anything and they kept asking us if we saw anything, but we didn’t. But later we saw it. It came out, though it didn’t last for long,” Daniel Adekoye, one of the students said.
Thereafter, the NASRDA boss, explained what eclipse is all about, saying solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between earth and the sun, thereby totally or partly obscuring the image of the sun for a viewer on earth. For an annular solar eclipse, he said it occurs when the moon’s apparent diameter is smaller than the sun’s, blocking most of the sun’s light and causing the sun to look like an annulus.
Mohammed who explained that the eclipse that occurred in Nigeria was a partial one, explained that in Indonesia, it was total and would last for two hours.
“In Indonesia, it is total and their own will last for two hours. Scientists are there researching. This is what we want in this country. This agency will continue to support this within our budget. Very soon, our space museum will be ready. We hope that our planetarium will be ready soon,” he further said.
He added that the significance of the exercise was to encourage young people into becoming future scientists, urging those who have missed the eclipse to be ready in two years’ time when the eclipse will appear again.
The ‘eclipse day’ ended with a lecture on eclipse, dancing to the music of the police band and culminated with the unveiling of the agency’s ambassador of space, Daniel Gashinbaki, a 7-year student from Adamawa State by the NASRDA DG.
“I decided to make this announcement. We have the responsibility to encourage young students. Daniel understands space technology. He made a rover, after seeing one developed by NASA. We will make his dream a reality. We will give Daniel a scholarship. He will enjoy special seat in our events. We will give out N50,000 to upset his school fees. We will look at his blueprint so as to know how to proceed,” he said.
It was indeed a delightful day for those who were at the agency. However, for others who were present, it was a tale of disappointment as they said they saw nothing despite the much publicity for it.
“There was so much noise about eclipse and people being told not to panic, I didn’t see anything. The way it was hyped, I had even told my children not to go anywhere because I was thinking there will be darkness or something like that. But nothing happened,” Hassan Audu, a driver in the territory said.