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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!

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 3:28 pm


  1. This sounds like a heck of an adventure. I hope you include lot’s of pictures!

    Comment by Donovan Rittenbach — July 1, 2009 @ 8:27 am

  2. I am also going to China to see the eclipse. If we are lucky enough to have good weather this will be our 5th total solar eclipse. Once you see a total solar eclipse it is hard not to become addicted. We saw the longest total solare eclipse in the last century on the Sea of Cortez in Mexico.

    We will start our trip with several days in Beijing then continue to Hangzhou where we set up our base camp and wait for the eclipse. We continue to the Yunnan province where we will visit Kunming, Lijiang and finish our trip in Zhongdian, now known to the world as Shangri-La.

    I would be interested in knowing what city you plan to be in on July 22 and if you will be holding or know of any special events in China for the eclipse.

    Comment by Linda Ramos — July 1, 2009 @ 11:40 am

  3. Hi Linda,
    We’ll be going to Beijing, Xian, and – for the eclipse – Shanghai, joining up with a few other groups to observe from a site called Dishui Lake, just east of Shanghai. Clear skies and happy viewing!

    Comment by bquock — July 1, 2009 @ 3:47 pm

  4. Hi Bing.
    I believe that Dishui Lake is west of Shanghai, not east. Make sure you head the right direction.
    I am going to be at the same hotel as the Academy group for a couple of days before the eclipse. I plan to run around that neighborhood to find alternate viewing spots. I will also be checking satellite weather images frequently, so that, if it looks like the sky will be cloudy, I can plan to move quickly. Do you guys have a transportation plan in case you need to relocate at the last minute? My plan is to grab a taxi and head rapidly westward at dawn, if necessary. If members of your group want to go with me, I would be happy to share.

    Comment by Tristan — July 1, 2009 @ 5:59 pm

  5. Hi Tristan,
    Thanks – on the map the travel agency sent, it looks east to me (between Shanghai & the coast), but I’m sure our ground people have it all worked out…I hope! They also said they’d be keeping an eye on the weather and would try to be ready to move to an alternate site if necessary. I’ll be discussing contingency plans with them – thanks for the kind offer!

    Comment by bquock — July 13, 2009 @ 11:00 am

  6. The total solar eclipse 2009 would be the most perfect total solar eclipse in twenty-first century according to some people.
    More details for Solar Eclipse 2009.

    Comment by merso — July 17, 2009 @ 7:30 pm

  7. This blog is gorgeous – beautiful photos, wonderful insight, great commentary. Thanks for sharing your adventure. I’m so glad you were able to see the eclipse and tell us all about it!

    Comment by Susan — July 31, 2009 @ 9:01 pm

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