Bangladesh Observes Full Moon With Unprecedented Enthusiasm
by F.R. Sarker
December 22, 1999, Dhaka

Tonight, thousands of people all over Bangladesh, both educated and illiterate, are deeply engaged in looking at the Full Moon reported to be the brightest and largest of its kind for 133 years. Standing on the river banks, paddy fields, open space, roadsides, or over the roof tops, they are observing this beaming Moon with unprecedented enthusiasm. Some have gone to the shore of Bay of Bengal to evaluate the hightide as well as Moonshine expected to rise at its peak around midnight. Tonight, the sky is extremely clear and the temperature is pleasant marking around 23 degrees celsius, a quite favourable atmosphere for observing sky objects. The Full Moon rose over eastern sky around 18.00 local time (12.00 Universal Time) and appeared to be larger than usually seen at any other time. As it slowly rose in the sky its brilliance started increasing and around midnight it reached zenith shining like a white diamond. The Moonlight was so dazzling that some people could read newspapers and see distant objects - which is impossible under the light of a normal Full Moon. The brilliance of Moonshine was significantly observed in the rural areas where electricity is unavailable. A report from a village in the southern part of Bangladesh says that the people have seen a few birds flying at midnight suggesting that they might have misunderstood the Moonshine as a time of dawn, when they usually come out from their nests.

Bangladesh is a country where peple have developed an exceptional interest and appreciation for Astronomy. During the time of Solar Eclipse in October 1995, about 30,000 people converged into the Southern Plaza of Parliament House, Dhaka, where the Science Museum had arranged an Eclipse observational programme for the public. The people were so over enthusiastic that a contingent of police was enaged to maintain law and order but eventually it ended in fiasco after a scuffle with the police. During the Leonid Meteor Shower event in November, 1998 over 10,000 people converged into the observational site at dead of night around 3am and about 50,000 people stood over the rooftops to get the glimpses of these celestial objects. And on June 12 1999, hundreds of people conducted a street demonstration in Dhaka against the Cassini Spacecraft's Flyby with Earth chanting slogans and creating traffic block for some time.

The present craze for Full Moon observation flared up early this week when based on the Old Farmer's Almanac, Mr. Ahmed Nure Alam, a Science Writer of the daily "Janakantha" - a leading Bengali language newspaper in Bangladesh - made a front page report asserting that the Full Moon on the night of December 22 would be the most brightest and largest so far observed during the last 133 years. Instantly, after publication of this news, people from every walk of life took this report very seriously and it became the talk of the day. Other newspapers also came up with reports about it. Today, all the newspapers of Bangladesh have made their front page reports with lots of tantalising stories about the Full Moon - which added much fuel to the enthusiasm of our people resulting in an unprecedented particiaption in tonight's observation of this celestial spectacle.

Astronomical organisations have also come up with observational programmes. Bangladesh Astronomical Association, an organisation run by students and youngmen - arranged an observational camp in the premises of Engineering University in Dhaka to observe this Full Moon through telescope. The Science Museum also has arranged a special observational programme to show the Moon through their 12" diameter Schmidt-Cassegrain Telescope. Dr. A.R. Khan, the President of Bangladesh Astronomical Society is to remain busy these days almost round-the-clock to reply the questions of the Newspapers and Newsmedia reporters as well as general people about the pros and cons of this historic Full Moon.

Whether the Full Moon of December 22 is the the largest or brightest or not that is to be determined by the experts who are assigned to do this job. But the enthusiasm and devotion the people of Bangladesh have shown to observe this celestial spectacle is really fantastic and above comparison with the people of any country in Asia and perhaps in the world.

F.R. Sarker
General Secretary
Bangladesh Astronomical Society
Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Tel : 88-02-8011335
Fax : 88-02-8014310
E-mail : sarker@bdonline.com


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