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Eclipse Over China 

July 16, 2009

Wheels Down: Beijing

Local guide Johnny awaits Academy arrivals

On the 40th anniversary of the day Apollo 11 lifted off from Earth for the Moon, we touched down in Beijing for the first leg of our China adventure, one also involving the Moon.  Somehow, I’d always imagined the flight plan just cutting straight across the Pacific, but we flew up the West coast, over Alaska, crossed the Bering Strait, and down the eastern Russian coast – a 12-hour flight that hugged the Pacific Rim, landing at what would be the equivalent of about 3 am, Pacific Time.  Interestingly, since we were flying westward, we’d been chasing the Sun, giving ourselves an additional 12 hours of daylight (and you think YOU’VE had a long day!).

It’s REALLY warm and hazy here, with today’s temperature about 90 degrees, F. and no blue sky that I could see.  I hope it’s clearer in Shanghai, where it counts.  Our Academy group consists of 25 people.  We’ll join up with 31 others for our cultural tours, then meet up with even more eclipse-chasers in a reserved area at Dishui Lake outside of Shanghai for the eclipse itself.

Beijing immediately gives the impression of a huge, crowded city, with construction going on everywhere, high-rise buildings crammed together, and lots of big, bright, colorful, lighted signs.  Johnny, our local guide, told us that automobile traffic has skyrocketed in recent years in this, the third most populous city in China after Chongqing and Shanghai.  Fortunately, arriving when we did, we didn’t have to face too much traffic on the way to the hotel from the airport.  The trip took somewhere around 45 minutes, but Johnny kept us entertained with plenty of useful tourist tips and information.  I spotted four KFC’s along the way -  the Colonel is popular here…

Tomorrow, meeting the rest of the group, welcomes, and the Forbidden City!

Part of the Academy group arrives at Beijing Airport

Filed under: Uncategorized — bquock @ 9:08 am

July 14, 2009

No, You Can’t Get Into the Suitcase

Just testing my camera…the cat’s not coming with us, but he & his sisters are wondering what the commotion’s all about – suitcases & passports & papers, oh my…!!!

I’m not really much of a photographer, and while I may try some shots, eclipse-aholics tell me that if I concentrate too much on trying to photograph the eclipse, I won’t enjoy actually seeing it.  Lots of good scenery waiting to be seen, though, and I hope to share it with you.

We leave tomorrow – yes, someone will be taking care of the cats.  They’re okay at home by themselves, but I don’t trust them with the car…

Filed under: Uncategorized — bquock @ 11:13 am

June 29, 2009

A Celestial Adventure in China

Photo Credit: Sam Sweiss

Bing at Astroday 2009. Photo Courtey of Sam Sweiss.


Two weeks and counting… I’m preparing to lead an Academy trip to China to watch the new Moon block the Sun from the sky on July 22nd, flying out of SFO on the 15th.  We’re going to an ancient land where people used to think that when an eclipse occurred and the Sun seemed to disappear from the sky, a dragon was devouring the Sun – so in a sense, we’re going to hunt for a dragon.

I’ve neither been to China nor seen a total solar eclipse.  I’ve seen plenty of other types of eclipses, and I’ve given lots of talks and planetarium shows about them, but strangely, I’ve never actually seen a total myself.  They’re said to be addictive – I have astronomer-friends who will go wherever an eclipse happens in the world…Turkey, Baja, Egypt, Russia…China.  Maybe I’ll see one of my friends there.  After all, how crowded can China be?

Courtesy of NASA/JPL

Actually, this eclipse might possibly be seen by more people than has any other in history, since the path of totality runs across India and China, the two most populous countries on the planet.  This eclipse will also have the longest period of totality this century – about 6½ minutes at the perfect spot, which is somewhere in the Pacific Ocean – from our planned observing site near Shanghai, we expect to have about 5½ minutes of moonshadow, weather-permitting.   

Stay tuned for updates from the trip – I’ll try to convey a sense of what we see and experience in China, from the Forbidden City and the Great Wall to the Terracotta Army…and the total solar eclipse!

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 3:28 pm
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