Archive for the ‘Astronomy’ Category

Solar Eclipses Then and Now

21 July, 2009

Photo: McKay Savage

This sundial at the Jantar Mantar Observatory in Jaipur, India was built by the Maharaja Jai Singh II in 1730.

The curved stone at the back lets you read the time in AM and PM, and it is calibrated to the North Star, Polaris.

The Jantar Mantar sundial was used for marking the time and position of the astrologically important stars, planets and constellations and contains 14 major geometric instruments that map the time and location of the sun, stars and planets.

It was also used to predict eclipses.


Today, science has taken us to places we never imagined possible.

We can calculate key moments of the 22 July, 2009 eclipse down to the millisecond. We know this eclipse will be the longest total eclipse of the 21st century, and that the next longer total eclipse will happen only on June 13, 2132.

We can predict and chart the path of totality of the eclipse accurately.

We can predict the percentage of obscuration of the eclipse in over a hundred towns and cities. In English: create a cool animation to show what view of the eclipse each city will get to see.

In this day and age, we can even view the path of totality, down close or way up high, with the aid of Google Map.

And then, to top it all off, when the total eclipse happens along that narrow corridor of northern India, central China and the Pacific Ocean, we can bring it to the majority of the world who are not able to see it via live feed on the Internet. On

‘Nuff said.

22 Jul 2009 Solar Eclipse Animation Shanghai_China_2009Jul21_anim


That’s us somewhere down there. We’ll be on Yangshan Island outside Shanghai, capturing the eclipse to feed back LIVE.

Watch it on, it’ll start at 08:50AM Shanghai/Singapore time , which is 00:50 UTC/GMT.


Then Eclipse vs Now Eclipse

20 July, 2009

Here’s a picture of the total solar eclipse of 1900 taken from USA.

1900 Eclipse, Photo: Thomas Smillie

To capture this image, scientists loaded several railroad cars with scientific equipment and travelled from Washington D.C. to Wadesboro in North Carolina, where they had calculated would be the best location in North America for viewing this total solar eclipse.

Called the Smithsonian Solar Eclipse Expedition, they hoped to record photographic proof of the solar corona for further study.

The team included Smithsonian photographer Thomas Smillie, who headed up the missions photographic component. Smillie rigged cameras to seven telescopes and successfully made eight glass-plate negatives, ranging in size from eleven by fourteen inches to thirty by thirty inches. At the time, Smillies work was considered an amazing photographic and scientific achievement.

Today, besides powerful radars on ground, we have satellites orbiting in space specially to study the Sun, such as SOHO (SOlar and Heliospehric Observatory) and STEREO (Solar TErrestrial Relations Observatory), just to name a couple.

As for capturing eclipses, besides the sophisticated equipment of professional astrophotographers, solar eclipse buffs and media crew, we have digital cameras and handicams.

Thousands and thousands of them will surely be pointed to the sky come Wednesday morning.

"Oooh" Photo: Carlos Fernández

A solar eclipse’s contribution to the Theory of General Relativity

17 July, 2009

Did you know that a solar eclipse helped to confirm Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity?

1919 Eclipse (Source: F. W. Dyson, A. S. Eddington, and C. Davidson)Back in 1919, Arthur Eddington compared the apparent distance between two stars, with and without the Sun between them. And was able to confirm the theoretical predictions about gravitational lenses (although it now seems that the data were ambiguous at the time).

Anyway, long science lecture cut short, he was able to make that observation with the Sun between the stars because of the total eclipse.

During totality, the stars were visible while the Sun’s position in the sky was still known.

5 more days to the century’s most dramatic eclipse. Wonder what this eclipse will unveil for the world of Science?

The path of the Eclipse of the Century

16 July, 2009

GoogleMaps has posted the path of totality for next Wednesday’s eclipse! Check it out…

It stretches from Mumbai across India, into central China and out into the Pacific Ocean. You can zoom in and out. Click on any point of the map and information on first contact (the edge of the Moon’s silhouette touches the edge of the Sun), total eclipse, and last contact, will appear.

We are so psyched. We’re still playing with it. So this post will be short.


Eclipse Map

An eclipse in Goa, India

14 July, 2009

If you’re in the northern part of India, even better if you’re in the northeastern part because then it won’t be too early before sunrise, there’s a good chance you can catch the total solar eclipse.

Here’s a shot of silhouettes in Goa to inspire you.

19 Mar 2007 (Photo: Joerg Schoppmeyer)

On Moonday, March 19, (2007) shortly before the equinox, locations in Asia and the Arctic were favoured by the New Moon’s shadow during a partial solar eclipse. Although the view from Goa, India found the eclipsed Sun near the horizon, photographer Joerg Schoppmeyer was still able to capture this lovely image, combining celestial with terrestrial silhouettes. The next eclipse season will begin in late August this year, featuringa total lunar eclipse on August 28, and another partial solar eclipse on September 11. Compared to the March 19th eclipse, the September 11th eclipse will be seen on the other side of our fair planet, from parts of South America and Antarctica. (Source: APOD)

8 more days to the Eclipse of the Century!

Will I see be able to see the Eclipse?

14 July, 2009

The total solar eclipse on 22 July 2009 will fall along a narrow corridor through northern India, eastern Nepal, northern Bangladesh, Bhutan, the northern tip of Myanma, central China and the Pacific Ocean including the Ryukyu, Marshall and Kiribati Islands.

Author: A.T. Sinclair,

Many cities like Surat, Varanasi, Patna, Thimphu, Chengdu, Chongqing, Wuhan, Hangzhou and Shanghai as well as over the Three Gorges Dam, will get to see the total eclipse.

(See the black dot on the animation — that’s the narrow path of eclipse totality, which actually spans over 100 miles wide.)

A partial eclipse will be seen along the much broader path of the Moon’s penumbra shadow.

Depending on how far above or below you are in the penumbral shadow, you’ll catch varying degrees of a partial solar eclipse.

Cities like Dehli, KolkataBeijing, Ulan BatorSeoul, Tokyo, Osaka, TaipeiHanoi, Ho Chi MinhManila, Kuantan and Kuala Lumpur and will still be able to catch varying degrees of a partial solar eclipse.

The closer the city is to the path of totality, the more significant the partial eclipse they will experience. For instance, Chiang Mai will see a more significant partial eclipse than Bangkok because it is nearer the umbral shadow.

Cities in western India like Bangalore and Jaipur may catch only part of the eclipse as it may begin before the sun has risen in those parts.

(Click on cities to see the animation of the percentage of the partial eclipse. The animation links and the graphics below are from HM Nautical Almanac Office and the breakdown by city can be found here.)

Delhi, IndiaCalcutta, IndiaHyderabad, PakistanBeijing, ChinaHong Kong, ChinaTokyo, JapanTaipei, TaiwanSeoul, South KoreaManila, PhilippinesHanoi, VietnamChiang Mai, ThailandKuantan, Malaysia

As for the rest of the world, don’t forget that you can still watch the total solar eclipse. It’ll be shown LIVE at

The Total Solar Eclipse of August 1, 2008

11 July, 2009

Here’s something else to watch over the weekend.

The last eclipse that generated a fair amount of publicity was the total eclipse that happened on August 1, 2008. And the Exploratorium went up to China to catch that event. This is what they saw.


(The Exploratorium is based in San Francisco, and it’s a museum of science, art, humans and technology that created the “hands on” movement among museums around the world. About a thousand museums internationally that trace their exhibits or programmes to the Exploratorium. Its mission is to provide the general public, even those with the most limited scientific knowledge, the joy of discovery. And hopes inspire young and old, academic or artist, and provide a better understanding of science and nature.)

How rare is “rare”?

10 July, 2009

Annular Eclipse (Photo: Juan Fernandez)Exactly how rare is it to view a total solar eclipse?

While at least two or up to five solar eclipses can happen on Earth every year, they are not all total solar eclipses.

And even when they do happen, they take place only along a narrow strip along our planet. (Sometimes they take place over an ocean and except for those who make a special trip, very few people see them at all.)

On October 3, 2005 an annular eclipse took place in Spain.

(Annular eclipses are like total eclipses because the Moon is in front of the Sun, yet appears visually smaller than the Sun, leaving a border or ring around the dark silhouette of the Moon.)

It was the first total or annular eclipse in Spain since 1748.

So these occurrences are pretty rare. Be sure to catch the one coming up on July 22, 2009, even if it’s in real time via “live” feed on

Annular Eclipse (Photo: Juan Fernandez)

Crown of crowns

9 July, 2009

Photo: Rogilbert

An amazing image shot by amateur photographer Rogilbert of the August 11, 1999 eclipse over Europe — the Sun’s corona is peeking beyond the moon’s uneven silhouette, enhanced by the Moon’s uneven terrain.

Eclipse X 7

9 July, 2009

Image: Luc Viatour (

Image: Luc Viatour ( series of shots of the August 11, 1999 total eclipse, taken from France by Luc Viatour (

There’s a horizontal version — You can move your head from side to side really fast to try to see what an eclipse may look like. (Or you could visit on the morning of 22 July to watch an actual one in real time.)

And there’s a vertical version — For those with neck problems (just kidding!).