Darkness fell across parts of China and India on Wednesday morning as a total solar eclipse passed across the world’s most populous countries, bringing throngs of people outside to watch the phenomenon.
Total eclipses occur about twice a year as the moon passes between the Earth and the sun on the same plane as Earth’s orbit. Wednesday’s event will be the longest of the 21st century, with astronomers predicting it will last more than six minutes. Wednesday’s event will be the longest of the 21st century, with astronomers predicting it will last more than six minutes. People in a band running through parts of the Pacific Ocean, China and India will be able to get the full view of the eclipse. The Chinese city of Shanghai is being touted as one of the best spots to watch the eclipse, with tourists coming from across the globe to view the phenomenon, during which the sun’s corona — the sun’s outer atmosphere — becomes visible. “You can’t find words to adequately describe it,” Charles Fulco, a middle-school astronomy teacher from New York, told CNN. “You become addicted. You need to see the next one. You count the days and years until you do. Nothing else compares to it.” Send us your photos of the eclipse The weather was better in Hong Kong, where students, parents and the elderly flooded a primary school to watch the eclipse under sunny skies in the southern Chinese enclave. The local astronomy society gave a presentation on how an eclipse happens and children climbed up ladders to look through two large telescopes on the school roof — packed with skygazers — to catch a glimpse of the moon moving across the sun.
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People tested out eclipse goggles and tried to line them up with their cameras to get a picture of the eclipse. Meanwhile, technicians were arranging for live Web broadcasts of the eclipse in cities in the mainland. “Nature is incredible, and there is too much we don’t know about,” said Yee Ping, a journalist for a financial newspaper. “We try to know more and see by our own eyes so we can feel the power of nature.” Richard Binzel, an astronomer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said the total eclipse will first be visible at sunrise in India and about four hours later just east of Hawaii. A partial eclipse will be visible as far south as northern Australia and as far north as Siberia, he said. In some cultures, legends and folklore surrounds eclipses. Watch as eclipse-watchers head to China » In India, an eclipse is considered inauspicious. Women forbid pregnant daughters-in-law from going outside out of the belief that their children could be born with marks. Some temples won’t offer any prayers on the day of an eclipse — such as the one next to the planetarium in Mumbai, which said it won’t even light a stick of incense. In Chinese tradition, there is a story about a heavenly dog eating the sun. As the story goes, people would make noise to scare off the dog and rescue the sun, said Bill Yeung, president of the Hong Kong Astronomical Society. “In ancient China, we shared the same impression with our Indian friends that a solar eclipse was not a good thing,” he told CNN. Read blog on how eclipse-chasers are gambling on weather Some of the more unusual ways to see Wednesday’s eclipse include a cruise ship that will travel along the centerline off Japan and from aboard a 737-700 chartered plane in India. “The aircraft will be intercepting the middle of the eclipse shadow at 0626 IST (Indian Standard Time) at a height of 41,000 feet,” travel company Cox and Kings India Ltd, which is organizing the flight in association with Space technology and education Ltd, said in a statement. “Eclipse chasers sitting along the Sun Side seats of the aircraft will be able to photograph the eclipse; while the chasers sitting along the Earth Side seats will be able to photograph the Lunar Shadow moving over the Earth cloud top,” the company said.
More conventional viewing parties in Shanghai had been planned along the beach, in a park and in skyscrapers. A music festival has been organized in Japan’s Amami island, with more than 6,000 people expected, and Japanese television has shown rows of tents set up on Akusekijima island. The witnesses of the eclipse will range “from the farmer who only knows legends of eclipses and may not know this is happening at all to the world’s experts who have come specifically to the Shanghai region to make the most detailed scientific analysis possible,” added Binzel, the MIT astronomer.