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Total solar eclipse: the cosmic event of the last 2,000 years

CHINA will be the center of the universe for astronomers, sun worshippers and everyone who loves the sky on July 22.

The world's longest total eclipse of the sun in 2,000 years will take place from 8:23am to 11:01am Beijing time, from start to finish - more than two hours of heaven. China will be the best place on Earth to view the spectacular show.

In Shanghai, the maximum duration of the total eclipse will be 5 minutes and 57 seconds, from 9:37:32 to 9:43:29, at the Yangshan Deep-Water Port in Pudong. You will have to wait another 300 years for the next total eclipse.

Other observing spots in the city center include People's Square, Jing'an Temple area, Xujiahui, Pudong's Lujiazui and Shanghai Science and Technology Museum.

Scientists agree that the perfect spot in China, where the eclipse will be longest, is Anji known for the famous bamboo forest in Zhejiang Province, three hours' ride from Shanghai.

But most Shanghai folks can see it from the street, their balconies, a park, an office tower. Let's hope the haze clears up.

In Shanghai, an excellent spot will be Sheshan Hill in suburban Songjiang District.

From July 16 to 22, the Shanghai Sculpture Park in Sheshan will offer educational events and exhibits in cooperation with the historic Sheshan Observatory (now the Shanghai Astronomy Museum), astronomers, schools and communities.

It will also be viewed from the Sheshan Observatory, built in the early 20th century to house a three-ton, 40 centimeters double-refracting telescope.

Local astronomers are busy with preparations. Tang Haiming, a member of the Shanghai Astronomical Society, will be explaining it to students and community members.

"Every person in Shanghai can witness this spectacle," says Tang. "The very bright disk of the sun will be replaced by the dark silhouette of the moon. The sun's corona will be visible."

It is estimated that this solar eclipse can be seen by at least 400 million people around the world.

The last total lunar eclipse visible from the Shanghai area occurred in 1575. The next total eclipse will be in 2309.

The Shanghai Sculpture Park near Sheshan Hill will cooperate with the Shanghai Observatory to present interactive programs for astronomy lovers. Exhibitions, photographs and lectures will be offered.

On July 21, the day before the eclipse, the second International Solar Eclipse Summit will be held at Pudong Shangri-La Shanghai hotel. The summit of famous scientists and astronomers will be broadcast live and shown at the sculpture park.

The park will donate telescopes to five elementary schools in earthquake-damaged Dujiangyan City of Sichuan Province, says Zhou Jie, PR manager of the park. "We want to convey our best wishes and prayers to the children there and encourage them to conquer their fear and challenges."

The park will host a photography contest featuring photos of the coming eclipse.

The United Nations has proclaimed 2009 the International Year of Astronomy to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Galileo's use of a telescope to study the skies, and Kepler's publication of "Astronomia Nova" in the 17th century.

A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon is close to Earth and moves directly between the sun and the Earth. The Earth swings into the cone of shadow cast by the moon.

To avoid damage to the retina, approved eye protection is necessary when viewing a solar eclipse.

According to the Shanghai Observatory, the Yangshan Deep-Water Port is an excellent observation site.

Tall buildings, science museums and foreign consulates are preparing for observations and activities that day.

Date: July 16-26, 9am-4:30pm

Venue: Shanghai Sculpture Park, 1158 Linyinxin Rd, Songjiang District

Admission: 150 yuan for two entries

Tel: 5779-8090

Failure to protect your eyes can damage the retina

Viewing during partial and annular eclipses requires properly designed and certified solar filters.

Sunglasses are not safe. Do not use DIY filters using common objects like a floppy disk removed from its case, black color slide film and other devices.

It is safe to observe the total phase of a solar eclipse directly with the unaided eye, binoculars, telescope or camera only when the sun's photosphere is completely covered by the moon.

Photographing an eclipse is possible using a fairly high magnification telephoto lens.

Do not look at the sun through a camera viewfinder - until the eclipse is total.

(Compiled by Chen Qianqing)

Anji, Zhejiang Province

The best spot in the world to view the eclipse is Tianhuangping Town in Anji. The upper reservoir of the power station is ideal.

Duration: 5'46

Time: 08:20:57-10:58:06

Zhoushan, Zhejiang Province

China's easternmost city with the highest solar elevation angle. Nothing at sea will obstruct the view.

Duration: 5'05

Time: 08:24:03-11:04:11

Jiaxing, Zhejiang Province

Duration: 5'51

Time: 08:22:21-11:00:24

Tongling, Anhui Province

One of the four CCTV live broadcasting spots in China.

Duration: 5'39

Time: 08:18:49-10:53:45

Tongcheng, Anhui Province

Xizihu Town in Tongcheng lies on the central line of the eclipse.

Duration: 5'32

Time: 08:17:52-10:51:48

Yi County, Yellow Mountain, Anhui Province

Duration: 3'42

Time: 08:18:37-10:54:32


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