Century's only total solar eclipse takes Taiwan by storm
The China Post news staff Thursday, July 23, 2009, 9:32 am TWN
TAIPEI, Taiwan -- There was a heavy turnout for the gazing of a rare partial solar eclipse over Taiwan and the offshore islands for more than two hours yesterday morning.
Despite occasional clouds, people here were able to seize the extraordinary opportunity for the spectacular astronomical phenomenon throughout most of its duration.
Schoolchildren gathered by their teachers experienced an extraordinary science course. Adults came out on balconies, rooftops, and parks to take photos with their mobile phones. Many office workers took leave because they did not want to miss the enthralling show of nature.
Many could not get into the Taipei Astronomical Museum (TAM), which has a full capacity of 2,000 people.
Tourists from China presently traveling the island said they were glad to have the chance of witnessing the partial solar eclipse in Taiwan.
The spectators were amazed at the sun's gradual changing into a new moon. Others said the sun at one time looked more like a banana to them.
The earliest eclipse started at 8:18 a.m. for residents on the frontline island of Kinmen as forecast by the Astronomical Observatory under the Central Weather Bureau.
But people on the island of Matsu, which is located north of Kinmen, saw the maximum eclipse of the sun at 86.8 percent because of the blocking by the moon before the sun returned to its original form at 10.56 a.m.
For the main island of Taiwan, people in southern Tainan County got the earliest glimpse, beginning at 8:22 a.m., with the most extensive eclipse of the sun at 73.1 percent before the sun regained form at 11:01 a.m.
In Taipei area, the partial eclipse began at 8:23 a.m. as expected, with the maximum eclipse of 82.4 percent taking place at 9:40 a.m. before shrinking. The whole process lasted two hours and 42 minutes, until 11:05 a.m.
First lady Christine Mei-ching Chow and Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin accompanied a large number of schoolchildren at the TAM.
They were both impressed with the children's knowledge of the interaction between the Earth, moon, and sun after giving them pop quizzes.
Chow, honorary chairwoman of the local Red Cross Society, helped arrange more than 200 astronomy fans for the gathering.
Many of children brought their self-designed, self-created DIY kits for the occasion.
Some found that one of the simplest and most cost-effective ways to catch glimpses of the eclipse was using the track part of a compact disc.
In southern Kaohsiung, the second largest city in Taiwan, tens of thousands of people thronged the campuses of high schools and elementary schools that organized activities to appreciate and discuss the solar eclipse.
Schools and museums in central Taichung and eastern Hualien were also crowded.
There were estimated much larger audiences at home and in offices going online for live broadcasts of the phenomenon at various Web sites.
The Astronomical Observatory of the CWB said residents in Taiwan will have another encounter with a partial solar eclipse on Jan. 15 of next year.
People in the Taipei area, and Keelung City as well as Taoyuan, Hsinchu, and Miaoli counties in northern Taiwan, will be able to catch an annular eclipse, in which the moon appears to be covering an area in the center of the sun and leaving a circle for the sun on May 21, 2012.
However, none of these partial solar eclipses will last as long as yesterday's.
People in Taiwan will have to wait until 2070 for another total solar eclipse at full magnitude, officials at the weather bureau said.
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