Ring of Fire – An unforgettable experience

Over the years I have being involved with many outreach events,but never was so excited as this, adding to that excitement, it was the first time all of us went to Jaffna – North of Sri Lanka.

Eclipse Team

Expedition to Northern Sri Lanka to catch the Ring of Fire started around 7.00pm on the 13th.

1. Thilina Heenatigala – Sri Lanka Astronomical Association
2. Anuradha Jayathilaka - SkyLK
3. Hasitha Karunaratne - SkyLK
4. Imesh Perera – Astronomy & Space Study Center
5. Prasanna Deshapriya – Sri Lanka Astronomical Association
6. ArunaGammanpila - SkyLK
7. Plashthi Kanaththage - Astronomy & Space Study Center
8. Thishan Pavithra - Astronomy & Space Study Center
9. Bhasura Gunawardhana – Royal College Astronomical Society
10. Shamil Asitha Kuruppu - Royal College Astronomical Society

By the time we reach Jaffna, it was about 12noon on the 14th. First thing to do was to schedule a time to check our observing location. Around 5pm we went to Jaffna Hindu College ground, and checked for a good place to set up our equipments.

Observing a good observing location for the big day

discussing arrangements with the Jaffna Hindu College, Principal and the Staff

On 15th early morning we came to the grounds, the sky was clear and was promising a good view. Everyone started with whatever the duties they are assigned to, I went and gave a talk for the students of Jaffna Hindu College. It was bit difficult as we had to use a translator, Uma (Express Media) who was very helpful throughout the program. Communication had been a problem from the time we got to Jaffna, as majority of the people only speak Tamil. But regardless of the language barrier, we were able to communicate and get the message of the Eclipse across.

Testing the webstream

more testing

setting up the photography equipments

Good to GO!

just before Eclipse talk for the students at Jaffna Hindu College

interview for the Virakesarai Media

From the start of the Eclipse, we had the crowd flowing, from all ages and different backgrounds. One of our main goals was to do a live stream of the eclipse. But from the morning we had troubles as we couldn’t get a good signal to keep the connection. It was disconnecting every 2-5minutes which was very disappointing.

This Eclipse was particularly interesting as it was involved with many technological aspects. There were many groups who uploaded live photos from Colombo, Aunuradhapura, Chillaw, and Jaffna. And some tried to web-stream as well. Interesting the last eclipse to cross Sri Lanka was in 1955 where there were hardly any technology around, and the internet was yet to be born. It's interesting how things have evolved over the years and now people from the other side of the world or those who couldn't travel to catch the glimpse of the eclipse could easily experience it live via internet.

You can read an interesting view point by Nalaka Gunewardene, how Main Stream Media and New Media covered the event.

But regardless of the technical difficulties, we managed to share the beauty of the eclipse with the 2000 participants. The annular phase was screened to a projector, so that everyone can see at once. It was very interesting to see the enthusiasm of the local crowd, and the endless questions on Solar Observing.

first set of students came in. such a long line!

students waiting for their opportunity to view to eclipse

I'm next!

all the teacher were given proper instructions for safe viewing.

just before the annular phase, everyone eagerly waiting...

2000 participants were difficult to handle during the annular phase!

all eyes on the screen! Maximum annular phase!

Many groups from Colombo joined as well. Plenty of amateur/professional photographers joined together to capture the Ring of Fire.

Group from Colombo

photographers sharing their images

Eclipse Images

Regardless of the language difference we had, the Eclipse truly brought everyone together. Some of the Jaffna local participants expressed their views on our efforts and the experience they had, even though we didn't understand most of it, their faces showed how delighted they were.

"Fellowship of the Ring" - The Eclipse Team

All the 10 members of the Eclipse team worked hard to share the joy of this beautiful Ring of Fire with the locals and other visitors. It was an effort to remember for the rest of our lives. Hats off to all the team members. And we are thankful to all those who helped us to put this together, specially the Express Media staff.

Photo Credit: Thilina Heenatigala/Eclipse Team/Sinhalaya Travels.
Please feel free to use the photos and share them.


Desh said...

Eclipse Expedition ever cherished !!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on a great public outreach effort Thilina! Your photos of the human event on the ground and the cosmic event in the sky tell a wonderful story.

Bill Waller

Unknown said...

What a great report Thilina, and congrads on such a fantastic public outreach event!
Kind regards,
Mike White, NZ

Nalaka Gunawardene said...

Thanks for sharing the images and memories of this event. Now I feel as if I’ve been there myself — and even more frustrated that I couldn’t find a couple of days needed to make that 450km journey overland to experience it myself. I was invited to join more than one eclipse expedition and/or public outreach team, and it’s just my loss that I didn’t try harder to get away!

These images brought back memories of watching the Solar eclipse of 4 December 2002 from Cape Town in South Africa, surrounded by hundreds of eager school children and grown-ups. There too, the eclipse was partial but still a sight to behold. (Further north in that vast country, it was a total eclipse in places like Kruger National Park.) I found it was fascinating to observe not just the eclipse at its culmination, but also the eclipse-watchers just before, during and just after the event.

Armando Lee said...

Congratulations for a successful Annular Eclipse Expedition! You done many things by doing a public viewing services and eclipse documentation/observation at the same time!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on all the efforts, Thilina & team. Thanks for the ability to experience the event (observers and observations) through your pictures. I visit spaceweather.com site where eclipse photos are uploaded, but none from Sri Lanka. Can you reach out to them as well?

Shereen Amendra

Desh said...

Hi Shereen,

I noticed your comments in my blog as well, and I submitted the photos to spaceweather a couple of days back !!

But they are here,

But not in the homepage !!

Oana Sandu said...

Wonderful experience, Thilina!

Very funny, but nice image of the huge line of pupils :)

And great job with the promo! Not to mention the photos :)

Congrats to the entire team!

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