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Eclipse Over China 

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!

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