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Unstrange Phenomena

22 July 2009

Millions Watch Solar Eclipse: Awe and Fear

Featured: Solar eclipse highlights, NASA video of eclipse time-lapse photography, article on religious and astrological significance from India. Updated 23 July 2009 with more video.

Darkness falls in Asia during total eclipse, luring masses

From Denny: Here are a few excerpts from CNN about the huge event of today's solar eclipse. CNN even has a science explainer page with a moving diagram that explains a solar eclipse, worth the view, and link is at the bottom of this post.

Story highlights:

Event is longest of 21st century, astronomers predict it would last over 6 minutes
People in parts of Pacific Ocean, China and India able to get full view
Chinese city of Shanghai touted as one of the best spots to watch the eclipse

(CNN) -- The longest solar eclipse of the century cast a wide shadow for several minutes over Asia and the Pacific Ocean Wednesday, luring throngs of people outside to watch the spectacle.

Day turned into night, temperatures turned cooler in cities and villages teemed with amateur stargazers.


The total eclipse started in India on Wednesday morning and moved eastward across Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Vietnam, China and parts of the Pacific. Millions cast their eyes towards the heavens to catch a rare view of the sun's corona.

Total eclipses occur about twice a year as the moon passes between the Earth and the sun on the same plane as Earth's orbit. Wednesday's event lasted up to more than six minutes in some places.

In India, where an eclipse pits science against superstition, thousands took a dip in the Ganges River in the Hindu holy city of Varanasi to cleanse their souls, said Ajay Kumar Upadhyay, the district's most senior official.


It was sunny skies in Hong Kong for the eclipse, where students, parents and the elderly flooded a primary school to watch in the southern Chinese enclave.

The local astronomy society gave a presentation on how an eclipse happens and children climbed up ladders to look through two large telescopes on the school roof -- packed with skygazers -- to catch a glimpse of the moon moving across the sun.

Others looked through binoculars covered with solar filter paper or through a large rectangular block labeled "Large Solar Filter," where they could take pictures of the moon moving over the sun.

Astronomy enthusiast Louis Chung, 13, brought his teacher to the school to witness the eclipse.

"City folks wouldn't usually be able to see this. Nature is wonderful. It is awesome to know that nature can provide such spectacular sights," said Chung, a member of the Hong Kong Astronomical Society.

Hawaii, USA

Richard Binzel, an astronomer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said the total eclipse will first be visible at sunrise in India and about four hours later just east of Hawaii. A partial eclipse will be visible as far south as northern Australia and as far north as Siberia, he said.

Cultural Traditions Surrounding Eclipse Events

In India, an eclipse is considered inauspicious. Women forbid pregnant daughters-in-law from going outside out of the belief that their children could be born with marks or birth defects. Some temples won't offer any prayers on the day of an eclipse -- such as the one next to the planetarium in Mumbai, which said it won't even light a stick of incense.

In Chinese tradition, there is a story about a heavenly dog eating the sun. As the story goes, people would make noise to scare off the dog and rescue the sun, said Bill Yeung, president of the Hong Kong Astronomical Society.

"In ancient China, we shared the same impression with our Indian friends that a solar eclipse was not a good thing," he told CNN.

Updated 23 July 2009 - Great NBC video about the eclipse and culture:

From Denny: NASA's view of an eclipse time-lapse photography

From Denny: Here is an interesting article from the Hindu religious perspective from a writer in India.

Lunar Eclipse Explainer page at CNN :

Religious Significance and Astrological Effects: "This Solar Eclipse has special significance as the Solar Eclipse happening on 22 July, 2009 is the first Solar Eclipse in this new Hindu year and also falls in the holy month of Sravan. Eclipse time is also considered very auspicious for spiritual practices. Hindu Temples except some Shiva Temples remain closed during the Eclipse and open only after proper rituals are performed to get rid of the ill effects of the Surya Grahan."

Written by Anamika S @ HubPages

Photo from China TV

22 July 2009, China, India, lunar eclipse, Eclipse, Pacific Ocean, Hong Kong, Astronomy, Solar eclipse, China and India, Hawaii

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