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Solar-eclipse enthusiasm shines on

PEOPLE throughout China were busy yesterday getting prepared for the longest total solar eclipse visible in Asia in a century.

According to Li Jing, a research fellow with the National Astronomical Observatories, some enthusiasts planned to watch the eclipse in their cars with the aim of being mobile to follow clearer weather.

The Yangtze Delta, one of the best venues for watching the eclipse, has attracted tens of thousands of watchers from foreign countries or other parts of China.

Passenger liner companies launched solar eclipse tours to bring tourists to the sea to watch the event.

In southern China's Guangdong Province, two special eclipse-watching programs were opened to astronomy fans. According to local tourism agencies, more than 10,000 people were to visit east and central China today to watch it.

Glasses demand

Public enthusiasm has pushed up prices for eclipse-watching equipment.

Ji Shisan, 32, founder of science club Scientific Squirrel, remembered that when he was young he brushed ink onto a piece of glass and watched the eclipse with it.

Now glasses used for watching the eclipse have been sold out in many stores.

"It was astonishing," said Yin Jian, a staff member with a Tesco supermarket in Shanghai. "We began to sell the 3.9 yuan (58 US cents) glasses on Saturday and by Sunday evening, more than 1,000 were sold."

Unable to buy a pair in supermarkets, many enthusiasts logged online to order the glasses.

On, more than 30,000 eclipse-related items valued at 1.5 million yuan were sold in a week.

Prices of special solar-eclipse glasses spanned from 2.5 yuan to 165 yuan.

To ensure people's safety when the eclipse occurs today, the zoo of Yichang City in central China's Hubei Province planned to check the cages in advance so as to prevent the animals being scared by the sudden darkness.

Night mode would be used in Yichang's Sanxia Airport during the eclipse, local sources said.

Although Beijing will be able to see a partial eclipse, the city is ready to turn on its 183,000 street lamps if necessary.

Ji Haisheng, a research fellow at the Purple Mountain Observatory of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, said they would try to get data to resolve issues, such as the influence of solar movement on the radiation of the sun, and the search for asteroids within the mercurial orbit.

Li Jing, with NAO, noted that the solar eclipse provided a chance for youngsters to learn more about astronomy.

The 81-year-old scientist remembered that he was fascinated by sciences when he was a fifth-grader and heard the story of Albert Einstein validating his theories by watching the solar eclipse.

"Young people had a natural eagerness to learn, so long as their curiosity was ignited," he said.

In the Beijing Book Building, books about astrology became bestsellers recently according to a man, surnamed Yin, who works in the science section of the store.

"The solar eclipse just lasts several minutes, but many people spent several months to prepare for it," he said.


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