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Solar Eclipse Shrouds Asia In Daytime Darkness

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Author Topic: Solar Eclipse Shrouds Asia In Daytime Darkness  (Read 47 times)
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« on: July 22, 2009, 06:48:06 am »

                                       Solar eclipse shrouds Asia in daytime darkness

Eric Talmadge,
Associated Press Writer
July 22, 2009

Millions of Asians turned their eyes skyward Wednesday as dawn suddenly turned to darkness across the continent in the longest total solar eclipse this century will see. Millions of others, seeing the rare event as a bad omen, shuttered themselves indoors.

Chinese launched fireworks and danced in Shanghai. On a remote Japanese island, bewildered cattle went to their feeding troughs thinking night had fallen. And in India, a woman was crushed as thousands of viewers crowded the banks of the Ganges for a glimpse.

Starting off in India just after dawn, the eclipse was visible across a wide swath of Asia before moving over southern Japan and then off into the Pacific Ocean. In some parts of Asia, it lasted as long as 6 minutes and 39 seconds.

The eclipse is the longest since July 11, 1991, when a total eclipse lasting 6 minutes, 53 seconds was visible from Hawaii to South America. There will not be a longer eclipse than Wednesday's until 2132.

The celestial event was met by a mixture of awe, excitement and fear.

Cloudy skies and rain damped the show in many areas, but villagers in the town of Varanasi, on the banks of the Ganges in India, got one of the best views.

Thousands of Hindus took to the waters to cleanse their sins. The eclipse was seen there for 3 minutes and 48 seconds.

The gathering was marred when a 65-year-old woman was killed and six people injured in a stampede at one of the river's banks where about 2,500 people had gathered, said police spokesman Surendra Srivastava. He said it is not clear how the stampede started.

Others in India, though, were gripped by fear and refused to come outdoors. In Hindu mythology, an eclipse is caused when a dragon-demon swallows the sun, while another myth is that sun rays during an eclipse can harm unborn children.

"My mother and aunts have called and told me stay in a darkened room with the curtains closed, lie in bed and chant prayers," Krati Jain, 24, who is expecting her first child, said in New Delhi.

Clouds obscured the sun when the eclipse began. But they parted in several Indian cities minutes before the total eclipse took place at 6:24 a.m. (0054 GMT; 8:54 p.m. EDT).

On the tiny Japanese island of Akuseki, where the total eclipse lasted 6 minutes and 25 seconds, more than 200 tourists had to take shelter inside a school gymnasium due to a tornado warning.

But when the sky started to darken, everyone rushed out to the schoolyard, cheering and applauding, said island official Seiichiro Fukumitsu.

"The sky turned dark like in the dead of the night. The air turned cooler and cicadas stopped singing. Everything was so exciting and moving," Fukumitsu said.

Some villagers reported that their cows gathered at a feeding station, apparently mistaking the eclipse as a signal that it was dinner time, he said.

"It was rather mysterious," he said. "It must have been a frightening experience for people hundreds of years ago."

Jubilant eclipse watchers in China set off fireworks near the banks of the Qiantang River in coastal Zheijiang province as skies darkened overhead for about six minutes. Visitors from countries including Britain, Germany and Australia joined curious Chinese onlookers. Heavy clouds blocked the full eclipse but watchers saw a partial one.

The river bank in Yanguan village drew an exceptional number of watchers because it was also the site of the world's largest tidal bore, a phenomenon triggered by the eclipse where a giant tidal wave runs against the river's currents.

In Beijing, a thick blanket of grayish smog blotted out the sky.

In coastal Shanghai, eclipse watchers were disappointed by a light drizzle in the morning. As the sky darkened fully for about five minutes, however, watchers became excited.

Holding a big green umbrella and wearing special glasses, Song Chunyun was prepared to celebrate the occasion in a new white dress.

"Although the rain came, I don't want to screw up the mood. I want to enjoy the special day," she said before dancing and singing in the rain with her two sisters.

At a Buddhist temple in the Thai capital Bangkok, dozens of monks led a mass prayer at a Buddhist temple to ward off evil.

"The eclipse is bad omen for the country," said Pinyo Pongjaroen, a prominent astrologer. "We are praying to boost the fortune of the country."

In Myanmar, Buddhists went to Yangon's famed Shwedagon pagoda to offer flowers, fruits and water to ward off misfortune. Some warned their friends and family not to sleep through the eclipse for fear of getting bad luck.

"We all got up early this morning and prayed at home because our abbot told us that the solar eclipse is a bad omen," said a 43-year old school teacher Aye Aye Thein.

Bangladeshis also came out in droves.

"It's a rare moment, I never thought I would see this in my life," said Abdullah Sayeed, a college student who traveled to Panchagarh town from the capital, Dhaka.

He said cars in the town needed to use headlights as "night darkness has fallen suddenly." People hugged each other and some blew whistles when the eclipse began.

Total eclipses are caused when the moon moves directly between the sun and the earth, covering it completely to cast a shadow on earth.


On the Net:

Eclipses Online:

Mr. Eclipse:


Associated Press writers

Julhas Alam
in Dhaka, Bangladesh,

Ambika Ahuja
in Bangkok,

Mari Yamaguchi
in Tokyo,

Eugene Hoshiko
in Yanguan, China,

and researcher
Ji Chen
in Shanghai

contributed to this report.
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« Reply #1 on: July 22, 2009, 06:50:57 am »

The moon passes between the sun and the earth during
a total solar eclipse in the northern Indian city of
Varanasi July 22, 2009.

/Jayanta Shaw

                                          Asia darkens under longest solar eclipse of century

Sunil Kataria
And Lucy Hornby
Wed Jul 22, 2009

A total solar eclipse on Wednesday swept across a narrow swathe of Asia, where hundreds of millions of people watched the skies darken, though in some places thick summer clouds blocked the sun.

The longest total solar eclipse of the 21st century cut through the world's most populous nations, India and China, as it travelled half the globe. It was visible along a roughly 250 km-wide (155 miles) corridor, U.S. space agency NASA said.

In India, where eclipse superstitions are rife, people snaked through the narrow lanes of the ancient Hindu holy city of Varanasi and gathered for a dip in the Ganges, an act believed to bring release from the cycle of life and death.

Amid chanting of Hindu hymns, thousands of men, women and children waded into the river with folded hands and prayed to the sun as it emerged in an overcast sky.

"We have come here because our elders told us this is the best time to improve our afterlife," said Bhailal Sharma, a villager from central India traveling in a group of about 100.

But for one 80-year-old woman the trip was fatal. Police said she died from suffocation in the crowd of hundreds of thousands that had gathered to bathe in the Ganges.

The eclipse next swept through Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar and over the crowded cities along China's Yangtze River, before heading to the Pacific.

In Hindu-majority Nepal, the government declared Wednesday a public holiday and thousands headed for water.

"Taking a dip in holy rivers before and after the eclipse salvages and protects us from disasters and calamities," said 86-year-old Sundar Shrestha, who had come to the holy Bagmati river with six children and grand children.

In central China crowds gathered along the high dykes of the industrial city of Wuhan, roaring and waving goodbye as the last sliver of sun disappeared, plunging the city into darkness, although clouds cheated them of part of the spectacle.

"As soon as the totality happened, the clouds closed in so we couldn't see the corona. That's a pity," said Zhen Jun, a man whose work unit had given him the day off to enjoy the spectacle.

But eclipse viewers in central China were luckier than those in the coastal cities near Shanghai, where overcast skies and rain in some places blocked the view of the sun entirely.
« Last Edit: July 22, 2009, 06:55:38 am by Bianca » Report Spam   Logged

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« Reply #2 on: July 22, 2009, 06:57:49 am »


Eclipses allow earth-bound scientists a rare glimpse of the sun's corona, the gases surrounding the sun, and this year there will be extra time for study.

"This is indeed quite an important event for scientific experiments. Its long duration provides you an opportunity to make very complicated, complex experiments," said Harish Bhatt, dean at the Bangalore-based Indian Institute of Astrophysics.

Scientists in China planned to snap two-dimensional images of the sun's corona -- up to 2 million degrees Celsius (3.6 million F) hot -- at roughly one image per second, Bhatt said.

The eclipse lasted up to a maximum of 6 minutes, 39 seconds over the Pacific Ocean, according to NASA.

It will be the longest eclipse of this century and will not be surpassed until June 13, 2132, according to NASA (

The eclipse is seen as a mixed blessing for millions of Indians. Those who considered it auspicious bathed in holy rivers and ponds for good fortune during the solar blackout.

But astrologers predicted the eclipse spelled bad luck for others. Expectant mothers asked doctors to advance or postpone births to avoid complications or a miserable future for children.

Parents in several schools in India's capital, New Delhi, kept their children home from classes since the eclipse coincided with breakfast. According to Hindu custom, it is inauspicious to prepare food during an eclipse.

In ancient Chinese culture, an eclipse was an omen linked to natural disasters or deaths in the imperial family. Chinese officials and state media were at pains to reassure the public that city services would run normally.

In modern China, people who wished to see the astronomical rarity clearly tried to escape pollution, avoiding industrial cities where smog smudges the horizon, even on clear days.

"The majority of people decided to go to Tongning, in Anhui, because they're worried about the serious air pollution from industrial areas in Shanghai," said Bill Yeung, the president of the Hong Kong Astronomical Society.

Those who chose Shanghai ended up fleeing to inland cities to escape the clouds, he added.

(Additional reporting by

Gopal Sharma,
Matthias Williams,
Bappa Majumdar
and James Pomfret;

Writing by
Matthias Williams
and Lucy Hornby;

Editing by
Emma Graham-Harrison
and Alex Richardson)
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