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Deserved Miracle
Total Solar Eclipse On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown

2009 July 22nd
Jinshanwei Shanghai China

Presented by Konstantin Yakovlev ( USA )


The eclipse figures and data are taken from :
NASA Eclipse Home Page
NASA Total Solar Eclipse of 2009 July 22 Home Page
NASA Eclipses During 2009 Home Page
Special acknowledgment to "Eclipse Predictions by Fred Espenak, NASA's GSFC"
Hello !

     On Wednesday, 2009 July 22, an exceptionally long total eclipse of the Sun is visible from within a narrow corridor that traverses the Eastern Hemisphere. The path of the Moon’s umbral shadow begins in India and crosses through Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burma, and China. After leaving mainland Asia, the path crosses Japan’s Ryukyu Islands and curves southeast through the Pacific Ocean where the maximum durationof totality reaches 6 min 39 s (Espenak and Anderson2006). A partial eclipse is seen within the much broader path ofthe Moon’s penumbral shadow, which includes most of easternAsia, Indonesia, and the Pacific Ocean (Figures 1 and 2).
     The central line of the Moon’s shadow begins at 00:53 UT in India’s Gulf of Khambhat (Bay of Cambay). Because the Moon passes through perigee just 4 ? hours earlier (July 21 at 20:16 UT), its close proximity to Earth produces an unusually wide path of totality. The eclipse track is 205 km wide at its start as the umbra quickly travels east-northeast. The Sun is only 3° above the northeastern horizon when the coastal city of Surat, India (pop. ~4 million) experiences a 3 min 14 s total eclipse (Figures 3 and 6).
     Racing inland, the shadow reaches Indore where its 1.8 million inhabitants are plunged into totality for 3 min 5 s. At mid-eclipse (00:53:30 UT), the Sun hangs a mere 6° above the horizon. After covering 700 km along the central line in the first 39 seconds of its 3+ hour-long trajectory across our planet, the umbra’s ground speed is rapidly decelerating. Nevertheless, with a velocity of 8.9 km/s, it still exceeds the speed of sound (1230 km/h) by a factor of 26 times.
     Bhopal (pop. 1.5 million) lies 40 km north of the central line. Even at this distance, it succumbs to 3 min 9 s of the total phase, just 19 s less than the maximum duration at the path’s center (Figure 7). By 00:55 UT, the umbra is in central India where it stretches diagonally across 2/3 of the country. Due to the Sun’s low altitude, the shadow is a highly elongated ellipse with a major axis of ~1000 km, nearly 5 times its minor axis.
     Approximately 400 km north of the path, the Taj Mahal in Agra experiences a deep partial eclipse of magnitude 0.906 at 00:56 UT. Just three minutes into its course, the path width is 218 km while the shadow’s velocity drops to 3.8 km/s. On the central line, the Sun stands 14° above the horizon during the 3 min 45 s total phase. Varanasi and Pata both lie within the shadow’s path as the central line crosses the sacred Ganges River (Figure 8). About 500 km to the southeast, the populace of Kolkata (Calcutta, pop. ~4.5 million) can view a partial eclipse of magnitude 0.911.
     Eastern India narrows to a 25-km-wide corridor as it squeezes between Nepal and Bangladesh. The shadow reaches this region at 00:58 UT. Outside the path, Kathmandu experiences a partial eclipse of magnitude 0.962, while Dacca witnesses a 0.930 magnitude event.
     The eclipse’s central line reaches Bhutan, at 00:59 UT (Figure 9). Now six minutes and 2000+ km into its trek, the path width has grown to 224 km, the ground velocity is 2.6 km/s and the central duration exceeds 4 min. After leaving Bhutan, the track continues through India in the northeastern states of Arunachal Pradesh and Assam.
     The center of the umbra reaches the India-China border at 01:05 UT (Figure 10). The Sun is now 28° high, the shadow’s ground velocity is 1.8 km/s and the duration of totality is 4 min 26 s. The southern half of the umbra briefly sweeps across northern Burma (Myanmar) before the entire shadow enters China’s Yunnan province and the Tibet Autonomous Region.
     The lunar shadow runs through the middle of Sichuan province where the capital city of Chengdu (pop. ~2.3 million) is totally eclipsed for 3 min 16 s at 01:13 UT (Figures 4 and 11). On the central line 88 km to the south, the duration is 4 min 52 s. The urban center of the Chongqing municipality is 69 km south of the central line (Figure 12), but its ~4.1 million inhabitants still share a totality lasting 4 min 06 s (01:15 UT). Because all of China is in one time zone (UT + 8 h), UT times and can be converted to local Chinese time by adding 8 hours.
     Hubei province’s capital Wuhan (pop. ~ 9.7 million) is the fourth largest city in China. It lies just 20 km south of the central line and enjoys a duration of 5 min 25s at 01:27 UT (Figure 13). The Sun’s altitude is 48°, the path width is 244 km and the umbra’s velocity is 1.0 km/s. The Yangtze River meanders through the eclipse track as the shadow proceeds east. Hangzhou (pop. ~3.9 million), the capital of Zhejiang province, is 52 km south of the central line and witnesses a total eclipse of 5 min 19 s (01:37 UT). In spite of Hangzhou’s location, only 32 s are to be gained by traveling north to the central line where the duration is 5 min 51 s (Figure 14). Shanghai is China’s largest city (pop. ~18.7 million). Located 66 km north of the central line, Shanghai still manages to receive 5 min of totality (01:39 UT). While the central line offers a total phase lasting 5 min 55 s, it is already over Hangzhou Bay and heading out to sea. The 128 islands of the Dinghai district southeast of Shanghai, make up the la t Chinese land within the eclipse track (01:41 UT).
     After crossing the East China Sea, the umbra encounters Japan’s Ryukyu Islands (a.k.a. Nansei Islands) at 01:57 UT (Figures 5 and 15). The chain contains dozens of islands stretching across the entire eclipse path. Yakushima, the largest island in the path is near the northern limit and experiences 3 min 57 s of totality. Akuseki-shima is closest to the central line; it gets a 6 min 20 s total eclipse. To the north, Tokyo, Japan’s capital city witnesses a partial eclipse of magnitude 0.747 (02:13 UT). The shadow encounters the remote Japanese islands of Iwo Jima and Kitaio Jima at approximately 02:27 UT (Figure 16). The durations of totality from the two islands are 5 min 13 s and 6 min 34 s, respectively.
     The instant of greatest eclipse occurs at 02:35:19 UT (latitude 24° 13?N, longitude 144° 07?E) when the axis of the Total Solar Eclipse of 2009 July 22 Moon’s shadow passes closest to the center of Earth (gamma1 = +0.06977). The maximum duration of totality here is 6 min 39 s, the Sun’s altitude is 86°, the path width is 258 km, and the umbra’s velocity is 0.65 km/s.
     Having already traversed 7550 km, the central line has an additional 7600 km to go until its terminus. Unfortunately, the remainder of the path makes no major landfall; it arcs southeast through the Pacific Ocean hitting only a handful of small atolls. Nearly an hour passes before the Moon’s shadow reaches Enewetak Atoll in the Marshall Islands (Figure 17). Infamous for its use as a nuclear test site in the 1950s, Enewetak experiences a total eclipse with a duration of 5 min 38 s at 03:31 UT. The Sun’s altitude is 57°, the path width is 254 km, and the umbra’s velocity is 0.85 km/s. Several other Marshall Islands atolls are in the eclipse track including Namorik, Kili, and Jaluit.
     Continuing through Kiribati (Gilbert Islands), Butaritari atoll lies near the central line (Figure 18) where the maximum duration of 4 min 48 s occurs at 03:56 UT. The eclipse track’s final landfall takes place on Nikumaroro Island (Gardner Island) in Kiribati’s Phoenix Island group (Figure 19). From Nikumaroro, the total phase lasts 3 min 39 s, while the central line 40 km to the south offers a duration of 3 min 58 s (04:11 UT). The Sun’s altitude is 20°, the path width is 228 km and the ground speed is 2.6 km/s.
     The lunar shadow once again becomes a long, drawn-out ellipse. In its final few minutes, the umbra’s velocity accelerates while the Sun’s altitude and the central duration decrease. As the Moon’s shadow lifts off Earth and returns to space, the central line ends at 04:18 UT. Over the course of 3 h 25 min, the umbra travels along a track approximately 15,150 km long that covers 0.71% of Earth’s surface area.
The observation point, Jinshanwei ( marked red ), was located in ~60km/~40miles south of Shanghai, just next to the central line where duration of totality reached 5min 57sec, so only 3sec of toality were lost because of location not exactly on the central line. Unfortunately, overcast ckies in Jinshanwei made us drive ~200km/~130miles west looking for better conditions, to the vicinity of Wuxi city ( marked yellow ). However, even that was not enough to reach clear skies and we had to return back to Jinshanwei where we had eventually seen some phases of the Eclipse due to a lucky chance.
Trip Itinerary
    This one, 2009 July 22nd, was my 4th Total Solar Eclipse : 1999 August 11th ( Romania ), 2006 March 29th ( Turkey ) and 2008 August 1st ( Russia ) were my previous ones... Well, I never was a «rainy person» and those three past times the weather was very favorable to me, but this time it looked the weather was taking revenge for all three past times...
    The observation sight was Jinshanwei, a city situated ~60km/~40miles south of Shanghai, right on the northern shore of the bay.
    Being acceptable during three pre-Eclipse days, the weather did everything to prevent us from seeing the Eclipse while there was something beyond the weather what did a miracle in the very critical moment suddenly making many hours of our desperate efforts worth to be done...
    Well, let's recall July 21st, the (E-1)-Day... As I already said above, all day long the weather was still relatively good while the forecast insisted on overcast skies by the evening and heavy thunderstorms during the night and the morning of E-Day. And yes, about 4PM the clouds previously moving along the western horizon started growing and moving our direction and by 5PM the last piece of the Sun disappeared from the skies which turned overcast in mere half of hour. The worst weather forecast nobody wanted to believe in had come true. I and my roommate, Tunc Tezel, a man from Turkey, kept checking the weather on the Internet and TV and sadly recognized that the entire Shanghai-Jinshanwei area was affected by these conditions and therefore there will be no chance to see anything from our location... The closest region where the conditions remained reasonable was ~300-400km/~200-250miles apart of us... We concluded that getting there is our only chance to see just something...
    Unfortunately, our attempts to raise this question when having supper with our group failed. Unbelievable, but NO ONE got encouraged. The behavior of the group as well as behavior of tour operator was completely unexplainable to me. Come on, all those people had spent their money and come exclusively for the Eclipse ( as announced, it was a short tour solely concentrated on the Eclipse ) while NO ONE was caring about seeing the real thing but everybody was lazily working on their food and listening a lecture about Eclipses. Well, they could do it ( eat, drink and learn the theory ) staying at homes for free, no need to travel that far !!!... The tour operator ( «Innovations in Travel» ) also didn't make any effort to encourage the group to watch the real event. As we figured out, they simply never thought of any «Plan B» to bring the group to better skies in case of bad weather at primary location...
    The indifference and laziness of all those people was completely beyond us... Only I and my roommate started pushing our guide to privately negotiate with hotel staff a taxi ride to take us in the direction we desired. It cost us 400USD, but the Eclipse was the thing why we were there and we agreed. We would be happy to have somebody joining us and sharing the expenses while nobody wanted : they just crossed their fingers for the good weather ( while according to all sources of information the overcast skies were imminent condition for the eclipse time ) and then they went to sleep.
    They, but not we...
    To reach the relatively good skies by 9:30AM, the time of totality, we scheduled the departure for 2AM.
    Unfortunately, even then we were not too lucky...
    For unknown reasons our driver headed north-west ( out of the path of totality ) instead of south-west. Being unable to read road signs written in Chinese we realized that he was driving in wrong direction only when we noticed that Taihu Lake ( which is situated north-west of Shanghai ) was at ours south, not north as it was supposed to be and as the driver was instructed. When we pointed out his fault he said that he lost the way himself...
    I don't know what the reason of his ignorance was... It might be he was really unfamiliar with the area apart of his city, but it might be he just didn't want to go that far and purposely played dump. Anyway, the rest part of the trip turned to be a pandemonium. The driver started asking local people ( pedestrians, policemen, other cab drivers ) for the road and taking money from us to pay them for their advices which were not helping to get off the lake but mysteriously bringing us again and again back to northern bank of the lake, to the places we were already familiar with. We realized that we are just making loops doing nothing else...
    Well, the lake itself was indeed beautiful, with amazing Buddhist monastery next to it. Should the weather improve, it would be a perfect observation site, much better than in the city. Unfortunately, the weather started worsening, more and more clouds were coming, and eventually a heavy rain started. It was already about 7AM, two and half hours before the totality, and therefore no chance to reach the area we initially were heading to. Completely discouraged, we commanded the driver to go back to Jinshanwei.
    To our surprise, this time he found the road very quickly and without any help what made us believe that most likely he was playing dump pretending that he was unfamiliar with the area.
    Anyway, in less than half of hour we were on the freeway heading to Jinshanwei. It was heavy raining and the clouds were so dense that there was no way even to guess where the Sun was.
    Thus in these conditions and mood we proceeded back to our hotel in Jinshanwei, my roommate felt asleep while I stayed awake because I wanted to record the change of lightness when the totality occurs. I didn't even think of photographing or filming the Sun so dense the clouds were. It was about 9AM, half of hour before the totality, when the street lights along the freeway switched on. I planned to stop the car in several minutes before the totality and just record the general view and changes of lightness.
    So, in several minutes before the totality I asked our driver to stop the car at the roadside, got out of the car, put my camera at the car’s roof and started recording the general view, not even the sky because I had no idea what the position of the Sun was. Tunc, my roommate, was peacefully sleeping. The driver was on his cell phone talking with somebody in Chinese. My camera worked recording how the daylight was quickly dimming turning cloudy day into the dark night.
    What happened then seemed like a miracle...
    Suddenly the driver started to shout something in Chinese pointing up to the sky. I looked up and numbed : the rain had stopped and the crescent of shrinking Sun appeared right on the background of overcast sky. It was several seconds to the totality...
    YES, an opening suddenly appeared among the dense clouds giving us the chance to see the Sun although through some moving haze and clouds. The driver laughed nervously. I made an inarticulate sound, caught my camera and headed it to the Sun which was already eluding the sight. Our noise made my roommate Tunc awake. «Camera !!! Lens !!! Now !!!», -- he shouted, caught his stuff and also got out of the car trying to take pictures of eluding Sun. The driver was laughing watching us and kept talking with somebody in Chinese. Thus we saw the last moments before the totality and even saw the Diamond Ring but since neither we nor our cameras and telescopes were prepared, we didn't manage to capture it while Tunc managed to take a few images of shrinking crescent and I recorded a video of those pre-totality moments. Then the Sun disappeared in the clouds in several seconds after totality began. It became as dark as in regular night.
    Thinking that everything was over, I put my camera back to the car’s roof continuing recording the change of lightness and Tunc was about to return back to the car. But suddenly the sky action continued ! The Sun reappeared among the clouds and that reappearance was much more dramatic than the first one ! This time what looked from the sky was not the crescent but the ring of totally eclipsed Sun. A silver ring surrounding a velvet-black disk or ball was staying high at the sky on the dark-grey background. It looked brighter or dimmer depending on the thickness of haze moving in front of it; and by the time it completely disappeared in clouds again it was clearly seen more than four continuous minutes : what is much longer than the duration of average totality and the duration of any totality we had ever seen !
    So, it really was longest totality of our lives, and it will remain that forever since no Eclipses with longer totality will occur in 21st century...
    Of course, no effects usually accompanying the totality such as Bailey's Beads, Advancing Wall of Shadow, Circular Glow or so were seen because of overcast skies. However, a section of Circular Glow came out pretty good on Tunc’s picture ( probably due to proper exposure ). Regarding me, I got so charmed that was just squatted and watching the sight... All what I did was taking several still images of eclipsed Sun but none of them came out good because of the long exposure and my shaking hands... Tunc was luckier. After several unsuccessful attempts to capture the Sun holding camera in the hands he laid down on the ground supporting the camera with his elbows and this manner he managed to take a few great images of totality. Despite the clouds covered the last minute of the totality, the Sun fortunately reappeared again just before the end of totality giving us a chance to see the first beam of sunshine which lit the sky with that kind of fairy silver-blue color coming from beyond of the clouds. Shortly after that the Sun disappeared again, and this time it disappeared finally. All what could be seen after that was a rapid, one-minute-lasting dawn turning the night darkness back into the light of cloudy day. I finished recording the change of lightness, we returned to the car, continued our trip to hotel and were there in a few minutes. So, to our surprise, we observed the Eclipse just in 2-3km/1-2miles from the hotel.
    Well, after seeing the indifference of people who specially came to see the Eclipse I was not surprised too much by behavior of local people around, however I was expecting that may be not most of people but just some of them would stop and look at the sky for a mere glance of the unique event : the event which will never happen in their lives again. But again, NO ONE on the streets ( neither pedestrians nor drivers ! ) showed even a minor interest to the longest Eclipse of the century. Everybody around behaved as nothing unusual was going on although it was absolutely impossible not to notice the six-minutes night fallen a few hours after sunrise, even in conditions of rainy and cloudy skies. I never thought that people are so incurious in their mass... They even didn't show any interest to us while we were hampering the traffic flow with our car stopped in inconvenient place on the roadside. The drivers were just honking and passing us while the pedestrians showed no interest both to the skies and to the scene on the road...
    Unlike on city streets, the hotel folks greeted us as heroes . Firstly, nobody could believe that we had fortunately seen the Eclipse just in a couple of km/miles apart of the hotel while they stayed prepared at the hotel backyard and had seen nothing. Then, after we proved our words with pictures and videos we took, both all guests and staff ( even those who were there not for Eclipse ) gathered to see us as we were extraterrestrials ! It was so enjoyable to demonstrate them our materials again and again, generously accepting congratulations and listening both admiring and jealous replicas... But everybody was agreeing on the same point : we had really deserved the show after more than 400km/250miles driving around. Indeed, that tiny opening blessed only us , and probably we were the only two ones in the whole Shanghai area ( not counting our cab driver... ) who had seen the eclipsed Sun ( even through the haze ), and not just the light transition from day to night and back...