New Vision (Kampala)

19 October 2013

Uganda: 30,000 Tourists to View Eclipse

Photo: Ashutosh Ojha
A solar eclipse.

Police have assured the public of tight security ahead of November 3, when over 30,000 foreign tourists will visitto watch the hybrid eclipse, the rarest type of solar eclipse, in Uganda.

The eclipse is when the moon shields the sun and creates a spectacular temporary darkness.

Tourism minister Maria Mutagamba said of the 30,000 foreign tourists, mostly scientists and academicians, who have expressed interest in viewing the eclipse from Uganda, at least 10,000 have confirmed.

The Cabinet committee instituted to organise the festivities, identified Owiny Primary School in Pakwach district as the vantage location to view the eclipse at 4:15pm.

The Government has earmarked sh500m for the preparations, part of which has been used to renovate the school structures and compound, according to Mutagamba.

The eclipse will also be visible in other areas including Arua, Gulu, Masindi and Soroti districts.

The minister made the revelation on Friday at the Media Centre in Kampala while briefing journalists about safety measures put in place for the event.

The hybrid eclipse is the rarest of the four types of solar eclipse, which changes from an annular to a total solar eclipse along its path. It occurs when the moon passes in front of the sun and casts a shadow on the surface of the earth.

Only seven of its kind have occurred since Jesus Christ was born, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the US aeronautics and aerospace research agency.

According to NASA, the last hybrid eclipse occurred on March 16, 1466 and the next one is forecast for June 3, 2114.

Experts have identified Uganda as the best location to view the eclipse. Most of this year's eclipse will occur over the Atlantic Ocean with the only landfall being in Africa across large areas of sparsely populated inhabited rain forest in the DRC.

"The eclipse presents a unique and positive opportunity to focus the world's attention on Uganda," Mutagamba said.

Citing the rift valley gorges, the White Nile, hundreds of migratory birds on Lake Albert and its 66 fish species among other attractions in West Nile, finance minister Fred Omach said tourists had will get value for money even after viewing the eclipse.

"The Security subcommittee has visited all the areas where we expect people to gather for the eclipse and come up with strategies to ensure everyone goes in and comes out safely," said.

Grace Turyagumanawe, the assistant inspector General of Police in charge of operations, said counter terrorism experts had been deployed to assist immigration officers in beefing up border security ahead of the event.

"We have a heightened terror alert these days. The public is urged to respect all security measures put in place on that day," Turyagumanawe said.

"We have gone through the routes and we are doing our best, investing heavily in community policing. We call upon everybody to accept to be searched."

Dr. Issa Makumbi of the ministry of health warned the public against viewing the eclipse with naked eyes, saying this results into irreversible blindness.

If someone lacks certified eclipse viewing glasses, pinhole cameras, welders' goggles, undeveloped black and white film that is not closed, it is advisable to view the eclipse through water in a basin.

Besides the naked eye, Makumbi also warned against using colour or developed films, modern cameras, sunglasses, binoculars and telescopes.

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