Longest Solar Eclipse of 21st Century to Pass Over India, China
July 21 (Bloomberg) — The longest full solar eclipse this century, lasting 6 minutes and 39 seconds in some areas, will plunge cities, including Shanghai, into darkness as it passes over India and China tomorrow.
Shanghai, China’s wealthiest city, will experience 5 minutes of darkness when the moon blocks out the sun at about 9:39 a.m. local time, according to the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration. A solar eclipse occurs when the moon’s orbit moves between the Earth and the sun so that the sun is fully or partially obstructed.
“It’s certainly a buzz because it’s quite beautiful,” said David Thurley, 62, a retired environmental and waste water engineer who traveled from Albury in southeastern Australia to watch the event in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou. “It’s through this demonstration that we know how the solar system works and it’s there for all to see.” Thurley has seen two previous eclipses in Australia and Libya.
Tomorrow’s eclipse is benefiting the tourism industries in China and India that have had fewer visitors because of the global recession and swine flu. The Park Hyatt Hotel on the 91st floor of the Shanghai World Financial Center, China’s tallest building, has fully booked its 2,830 yuan ($414) package for watching the eclipse that includes a night’s stay and champagne breakfast for two.
China posted a 4.8 percent decline in visitor arrivals from a year earlier during the first five months of 2009, according to the China National Tourism Administration. India’s tourist arrivals fell 9.2 percent in the first six months of this year, according to the Ministry of Tourism.
The eclipse will first be visible at about 5:28 a.m. local time on the western coast of India, before the shadow crosses the eastern states of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, according to the Indian Meteorological Department. It will pass over the cities of Surat, Indore, Bhopal, Varanasi and Patna, according to NASA.
Residents of Mumbai won’t get a view of a full eclipse as the path will move just north of the city, according to the U.S. space agency. A full eclipse will also be visible in parts of Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Myanmar before crossing into China, according to NASA.
During an eclipse, Hindus offer prayers by visiting temples and turn containers of food and water upside down. Food left uncovered during the event is thrown out or given to beggars. Some Hindus don’t eat or drink during the eclipse and bar pregnant women from stepping outdoors, sewing or using knives. Many immerse themselves in water for cleansing.
“There is no scientific basis for the Indian belief that an eclipse is inauspicious,” said Harish Bhatt, dean of the Faculty of Academic Sciences of the Bangalore-based Institute of Astrophysics. “It is just the moon’s shadow on the Earth.”
Such an event enables scientists to study the temperature of the sun’s gases and chemicals, Bhatt said.
In China, the cities of Chengdu, Chongqing, Wuhan, Hefei, Hangzhou, Suzhou and Shanghai will experience a full eclipse, according to NASA.
The ancient Chinese text, Records of the Grand Historian, written more than 2,000 years ago, describes eclipses as indicators of change. China’s State Council, the nation’s cabinet, issued a statement on July 18 calling on local governments to ensure social stability during the eclipse and to prevent the spread of superstition.
The Park Hyatt Hotel in Shanghai has booked rooms for guests coming to view the event, as well as business travelers who have extended stays or are arriving early for the eclipse, said Lillian Zhang, the hotel’s public relations manager.
Eclipses are “stunning and genuinely beautiful,” said Don Rankin, 47, who traveled from London to view the eclipse from Hangzhou with his 14-year-old son. “Whenever you see one, you just wonder when the next one is going to be.” Rankin began planning his trip to China nine months ago. It’ll be the fourth eclipse he’s witnessed.
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