The longest solar eclipse of the century is just hours away. At sunrise of the Eastern hemisphere on the July 22, 2009, a total eclipse of the Sun was visible from within a narrow corridor that traverses half of Earth.
The times of totality in the following areas were:
01.15 GMT- Western China
01.40 GMT- Eastern China
01.55 GMT- Ryukyu Islands, Japan
If you want to see the Eclipse all over again, there are several sites around the world that hosted live webcasts and have replays of the event:
Grupo Saros (China – Wuhan)
Eclipse City (China – Shanghai)
Live! Eclipse 2009 (Japan)
SEMS-Sun Earth Moon Systems (University of North Dakota, Computer Science Department)
In the United States, for a live video look at the eclipse, go to San Francisco’s Exploratorium.
A solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the Sun and the Earth so that the Sun is fully or partially covered. The path of the moon?s umbra – the cone-shaped darkest part of the moon?s shadow – began on India?s Gulf of Khambhat. Then, it crossed through Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar and China. After leaving mainland Asia, the moon’s path crosses Japan’s Ryukyu Islands and curves southeast through the Pacific Ocean before leaving the earth near the Marshall Islands about 3½ hours later.
The path of totality will cover a distance of approximately 9,500 miles (15,200 km). The maximum duration of totality was an exceptionally long 6 minutes and 39 seconds, which happened when the shadow was over the Pacific. Areas of China and Japan also experienced a full six minutes of darkness.
In the US, the only place that it was visible were Hawaii, which saw a small partial eclipse toward the sunset on Tuesday.
The most important thing to keep in mind when viewing the Sun, including during a partial eclipse, is to never look at the Sun directly without proper viewing glasses. Sunglasses do not work – you will damage your eyes permanently if you try to watch the eclipse with regular sunglasses.
The next best approach (and a very simple one) is to project the Sun with a mirror.
Use a small mirror, like a makeup mirror. With masking tape, cover all but about a 1/2" square in the center of the mirror. Then hold the mirror at an angle and project the Sun onto a shaded wall or into a darkened room.
Next eclipse: August 6, 2009
This eclipse is part of the Saros 136 cycle, which also includes the record-setting July 1991 solar eclipse, and is the second of three eclipses to occur within a month. The other two eclipses were lunar eclipses, one took place on July 7, 2009, and the other will occur August 6, 2009. The next event from this series will be on August 2, 2027. The exceptional duration is a result of the moon being near perigee, with the apparent diameter of the moon 8 percent larger than the sun.
"Eclipse chasers" will go to the ends of the Earth, often paying thousands of dollars for the perfect view and the maximum duration of darkness. Some people will be in a plane (at 41,000 feet) and some people will be out in the middle of the waters on a ship. Some people will watch the event from high buildings.
Cox and Kings, a travel company in India, offers a three-hour flight on board a Boeing 727-700 aircraft that follows the path of the eclipse at 41,000 feet. Passengers board a plane in New Delhi before dawn, then fly southeast to Gaya and back. Depending on where they are on the plane, seats cost from about $600 to $1,600.
NASA has a website dedicated to following eclipses. During previous eclipses, people on the ground say the sky gradually darkens and starts to take on something like twilight. Many have reported that birds stop chirping and animals cannot decide what to do. In ancient times, the shaman or priest who could project the exact time of an eclipse held near magical powers over their leaders and citizens.