The blind ‘watch’ eclipse through sound


Amazing: A visually-impaired boy listening to the sounds of the solar eclipse at Tech Dome in Komtar, George Town.

GEORGE TOWN: While others came to see the rare annular solar eclipse, a visually impaired group was here to hear all about it at Tech Dome in Komtar.

St Nicholas’ Home resident Bumah Dhevi Shunmugam, 48, was among those who got to experience the “ring of fire” by ear.

“This is my first time listening to a solar eclipse. It’s truly an incredible and magical experience as I’ve never heard anything quite like it before, ” she said in delight.

Bumah Dhevi said prior to yesterday’s occurrence, she had witnessed a previous eclipse when she was in primary school.

“I lost my sight when I was 12, so I was able to catch a glimpse of the solar eclipse before that. Now, even though I can’t see it anymore, experiencing it through listening is just as amazing and a new experience for me, ” she added.

Society of the Blind in Malaysia’s Penang branch chairman Mohd Rodzi Ariffin, who is partially blind, said he was awed by the “magical experience”.

“It’s God’s creation and gift. Watching the moon slowly blot out the sunlight is intriguing and listening to it is just as satisfying.”

Prof Dr Zulfigar Yasin, who is with Universiti Sains Malaysia’s Centre for Coastal and Marine Studies, said the experience for the visually-impaired was made possible with a LightSound instrument designed and built by scientists from the Apadilangit team that promotes astronomy, space science and space apps in Malaysia.

“The instrument is one that changes the brightness and intensity of light into sound.

“Depending on the progress of the eclipse, the sound and pitch will vary. This allows the visually impaired to ‘hear’ the eclipse as the intensity of the sound gets higher when the light is brighter, ” he said.

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