Sri Lanka's Killing Fields

I just watched the documentary film "Sri Lanka's Killing fields", Channel 4's investigation into the civil war and the alleged crimes against humanity in Sri Lanka. The conflict in Sri Lanka (which lies just ~700 km from the Maldives), between the majority-Sinhalese Sri Lankan government and the separatist Tamil Tigers began in 1983 and cessation of hostilities was finally declared in 2009. By all accounts, the final several months of the war was intense and produced heavy casualty. The Channel 4 film shows highly highly disturbing footage and pictures of brutal, cold murder and abuse - by both the Sri Lankan army and the rebels. Is the cost of current "peace" in Sri Lanka morally justifiable? The full film is available on Youtube, which I've linked to below.

To put the war into better perspective, it might be helpful to compare it with the Palestine-Israel conflict which is more familiar and evokes louder, more vehement reactions and emotions in Maldivians. The conflict in Sri Lanka resulted in 80,000-100,000 deaths (conservative estimate according to many) in the period 1983-2009, while the Palestine-Israel conflict has resulted in 14,500 deaths in the period 1948-2009. That translates to 3076 deaths/year in Sri Lanka versus 237 deaths/year in Palestine-Israel! By no means do I wish to suggest that the lesser number discounts the killings or belittles the suffering in the Palestine-Israel conflict but I do wish to communicate the scale and the gravity of the situation that was in Sri Lanka...

I am left feeling more misanthropic than ever.

MAAS event: Total lunar eclipse viewing

Maldivian Association for the Advancement of Science has a public viewing event organised for the upcoming total lunar eclipse taking place on 15th June. Bring your telescopes and cameras and join in observing the event. MAAS will have telescopes setup for those who don't own one.

For more details on this eclipse, please refer to my earlier post.

Time: Wednesday, 15th June at 22:00 - Thursday, 16th June at 01:30
Location: Artificial beach, the stage area behind the restaurant Mr. Chico's.

See you there!

Total Lunar Eclipse on 15th June visible in the Maldives

As I had mentioned in a post sometime ago, there is a total lunar eclipse taking place on 15th June 2011 and it will be visible in the Maldives. The (nearly) full Moon on the night will go very dark and undergo dramatic color changes.

The lunar eclipse taking place on 15th June will be a central eclipse, with the Moon passing through the center of the Earth's shadow, which will make the Moon appear very dark during the umbral (total) phase. Moreover, with the umbral phase lasting 100 minutes, this eclipse is among the longest eclipses that we will be seeing this century! By comparison, the longest lunar eclipse of this century happening on 27th July 2018 will be central and 103 minutes long (which, Maldives will be able to see in totality as well!).

The penumbral phase of the eclipse starts at 10:25 PM and partial eclipse starts at 11:23 PM on 15th June. The Moon will loose its bright white color and slowly turn into a reddish/orangish color during this period. Total eclipse begins at 12:22 AM of the next day, 16th June. The whole Moon will be very dark and will likely appear a coppery red color for the 1 hour 40 minutes that the total phase lasts. Mid eclipse is reached at 1:13 AM and the eclipse ends at 4:01 AM on 16th June.

The weather forecast is looking promising with only very little rain predicted. Hopefully there will be clear skies for the whole night. Unlike for solar eclipses, you will be able to view it directly with the naked eye. If you are a photographer, you might want to get your gear out and ready!

There is another lunar eclipse that will be visible in the Maldives taking place at the end of the year on 10 December 2011. That eclipse starts at 4:34 PM and reaches mid eclipse at 7:32 PM, which doesn't make for as good viewing as the one this month.

More info:

Visibility of the 2011-06-15 lunar eclipse - NASA

Milky Way Galaxy from the Maldives

Nishan has posted a really gorgeous photo of the night sky he recently took from the island of Guraidhoo. His long exposure photo, directed South at a low angle above a nearby uninhabited island, shows the nice circular star trail left by the rotation of the Earth against the canopy of the night sky.

There are a couple of bright star (trails) in the photo. The first bright star from the left of the photo is Alpha Centauri. It is the fourth brightest star in the sky and is the closest star system to Earth. Although it appears as a single star unmagnified, is actually a binary star system (two stars orbiting around each other). The bright blueish star trail next to that of Alpha Centauri is left by Beta Centauri, again a single star to us that actually is composed of three distinct stars. A line through Alpha Centauri and Hadar point to the top star of the Crux (Southern Cross) constellation. The five stars of the Southern Cross appear in the middle of the photo, with the four bright ones visible in a distinct cross pattern. The Southern Cross is called so because the top and bottom stars point very close to the (celestial) South.

However, what I really liked about Nishan's photo is that it is the first picture of the Maldivian night sky posted online that I've seen that shows clearly our galaxy, the Milky Way. You can see the Milky Way in the picture as a faint haze extending across the trail of stars. That haze is, trivially said, because of the increased concentration of stars towards the galactic center. Our Solar System is very far from the galactic center that affords us this beautiful scene of the busy and bustling center of the galaxy!

"Startrails in the tropical islands" by Millzero.

View of the same patch of sky as seen in Stellarium (simulation).