Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Solar Eclipse in Hangzhou on July 22, 2009

It has been quite awhile since I have updated the old blog, but it hasn't necessarily been from lack of material, although I have been traveling less lately. The main reason is that the blogspot website has been blocked in China for the past few months. Not just blogspot, but also youtube, facebook, twitter, picasa and many others of the best sites to waste your time on. It's been pretty brutal not being able to update my every thought on these sites at all times, but I've been able to manage. I have found a bit of a back door to access my blog, so I'm going to try and start posting again. I should note that the speed of access is extremely slow, which is liable to make my head explode when uploading pictures, so savor every word of this blog as if it were a fine wine. Not too much has changed since my last post. I'm still working at China Windey and things are going well. I do have a bit of a backlog of posts, so hopefully I can get caught up in the next few weeks. One of the best things that has happened recently was the solar eclipse. As part of my master plan in coming to China, I calculated that Hangzhou would be an ideal location to view the eclipse almost exactly one year after my arrival in China. Well, I wasn't actually that forward looking, but I was lucky enough to be in this part of the world for one of the longest full eclipses in supposedly about 300-400 years. The eclipse took place on a Tuesday morning. After waking up, I was pretty disappointed because it was an extremly hazy and overcast day, so I was worried that I wouldn't be able to see it very well. The eclipse was supposed to start around 9:30, so I went down to the ground level from my office to have a better view. I hadn't bought any special glasses to look at the eclipse because I didn't really trust buying glasses like that from the same street vendors who normally sell counterfeit clothing, shoes, sunglasses, and everything else. I imagined my retinas getting burned out from some shoddy counterfeit eclipse glasses.
I tried making one of the pinhole cameras to see the sun before the eclipse, but alas, a four year engineering degree seems worthless when constructing such an elaborate apparatus. Luckily, a nice guy let me use his glasses and you could see the sun being partially blocked out by the moon. Without the glasses, I took some quick glances to the sun and you couldn't see this partial blocking with the naked eye. However, the best part of the eclipse, the totality, you don't need glasses for, so it wasn't that big of a deal that I couldn't see that well. Despite some warnings that the brightness of the eclipse would ruin my camera lens, I took a few pictures before the eclipse.

People Waiting for the Eclipse

Sun and Haze Before Eclipse
Close Up of Sun Before Eclipse
The eclipse started at about 9:34 and lasted until about 9:40. I didn't quite know what to expect, but I have to say that it was really amazing to experience. It started to get dark slowly at first, then before you knew it, the sky was completely dark as night. It was even possible to see stars in the sky. The moon blocked out the sun almost completely except for an outer ring of light. While looking at the eclipse, I thought that primitive man would have surely seen such an inexplicable event as a sign of the times or as some foreboding occurrence. Complete darkness in the morning doesn't happen every day after all. Nowadays, scientists can calculate within seconds when and where the eclipse will occur, but that doesn't take away the awe of seeing one in person.
Here are some pictures of the solar eclipse and the totality, where the moon is completely blocking out the sun. I included some classy pictures of my watch to show the times as well.
Before Eclipse: 9:33
Beginning of Eclipse The Totality
During Eclipse (tough to see): 9:37
Darkness at the Office During Eclipse The Last Seconds of the Totality
Unfortunately, all good things must end and right on time, it started to get bright again and then it was just like normal daytime. Since it happened so quickly, it almost made me wonder if I had really seen what I just saw. As soon as the moon wasn't completely blocking the sun, it looked like the full sun was shining, but if you had the special glasses you would be able to see that the sun was just a sliver slowly getting larger.
After having such a surreal experience, it wasn't much fun to face the reality that I had to go back and sit at a desk in the office. Instead of working on some boring document, my basic instincts were telling me that I would be better off sacrificing some virgins to appease wrathful gods to avoid having such a punishment again in the future. I couldn't get anyone else to go along with that idea, so I had to go back to work.
End of Eclipse
After Eclipse: 9:41
This Guy Was Really There
I'm really happy that I got to see the solar eclipse. Since I'm kind of a nerd about space stuff, I quite enjoyed experiencing something like that firsthand. For a few more pics, check out picasa: http://picasaweb.google.com/wallred10/HangzhouSolarEclipseJuly222009


Alice said...

that's awesome!