Partial Solar Eclipse in Malaysia this Chinese New Year

While the Chinese society in Malaysia will be busy celebrating the arrival of a new year this coming January 26, up in the sky, not aware by most people, part of our Sun will be blocked by our Moon, causing a partial solar eclipse.

This is no coincidence that the partial solar eclipse happens on the first day of Chinese New Year. The first day of a Chinese calendar month is the day on which the astronomical New Moon is calculated to occur, and solar eclipse only happens during a new moon, when our Moon is between us and the Sun.


The main show is not the partial solar eclipse – we are only at the side seats… The main event is the annular solar eclipse which begins its path in the South Atlantic Ocean, travels eastward south of the African continent into the Indian Ocean and later pass by southern Sumatra and western Java, central Borneo and northwestern edge of Celebes before ending at Mindanao, Philippines. In total, the eclipse lasts 3 hours 46 minutes.

For animated version of the annular solar eclipse, visit

As shown in the figure above, we are not located at the annular path – we are quite near to it, but not near enough, so we only get a partial solar eclipse… and this is what makes solar eclipse – be it total or annular – so special. You really have to be in exactly the right place at exactly the right time to see it. If not, then you either get a partial solar eclipse or worse, you get the everyday Sun.

The partial solar eclipse this January 26 will be visible primarily from southern Africa, Australia, Southeast Asia and Indonesia.

In Malaysia, the first contact – when the Moon first “touches” the Sun – begins around 4:30 pm (depending on where you are). The Moon will then slowly cover-up the Sun until maximum eclipse occurs around 5:50 pm, when our Sun is 21 degrees above the horizon. Around 7 pm, the Moon leaves the Sun’s disk and the show ends.

Again, how much of the Sun’s disk that will be blocked by our Moon depends on your location. For Kuala Lumpur, the maximum coverage is 64%. Look again at the table of local circumstances by ANGKASA for major towns in Malaysia and you will notice that the coverage of the Sun’s disk is more for East Malaysia compared to West Malaysia. The reason is very simple: Sabah and Sarawak are nearer to the annular eclipse path than the Peninsular (see diagram above).

So you know a partial solar eclipse is going to be visible soon and you are looking forward to that. Now, how do you observe this event SAFELY?

There are few ways. You can project the image of the Sun onto a piece of paper or a wall either by using pinhole projector or telescope, or use a solar filter either the glasses type or attached it in front of a telescope. Only then, you can observe the Sun safely. You don’t really need a telescope to enjoy this.

Caution: Sunglasses, exposed film, x-ray film, polaroid filters etc. are NOT suitable to be used for Sun observation. Use only filters or glasses that are specially made for Sun viewing.

Please bear in mind that although the Sun will be partially covered, the remaining of the crescent Sun will still be intense enough to damage your eyes. It is NOT safe at all to look at the partial Sun directly.

I’ll link you to our ANGKASA site, where the staffs there did a great job of showing you how to build simple pinhole projector (long box or cardboard) to view the Sun safely.

Remember this: Safety precautions always have to be taken for any observations involving the Sun. NEVER EVER look at the Sun directly without any safety filters. The consequences will be a damaged eye or blindness. So be very careful!

Planetarium Negara will be organising activities for this event. More details in the next post.


~ by thChieh on January 19, 2009.

2 Responses to “Partial Solar Eclipse in Malaysia this Chinese New Year”

  1. […] Solar Eclipse Activities at Planetarium Negara In conjunction with the Partial Solar Eclipse on January 26, the National Space Agency (ANGKASA) will be organising the Partial Solar Eclipse Daily Programme. […]

  2. […] Same as last year, the main show is not the partial eclipse, but the annular one which begins its path in Africa and passes through Chad, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, Kenya, and Somalia. After leaving Africa, the path crosses the Indian Ocean where the maximum duration of annularity reaches 11 min 08 s. The central path then continues into Asia through Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, and China. […]

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