Get ready for the great Asian eclipse
The century's longest total solar eclipse promises to thrill those who stand in the Moon's shadow.
July 2, 2009
This article appeared in the July 2009 issue of Astronomy magazine
The Moon's shadow covers much of eastern Asia and the western Pacific July 22, 2009. China is the place to be if you want a good view of totality from terra firma.
Photo by Astronomy: Roen Kelly, from predictions by Fred Espenak (NASA/GSFC).
Like two cars speeding toward the same intersection in some action thriller, the Sun and Moon are racing relentlessly toward the same spot in the sky. But there will be no screeching brakes, twisted metal, or fiery explosion. When the two worlds reach their date with destiny, more than 94 million miles (151 million kilometers) of empty space will separate them. Neither will experience anything out of the ordinary.
The same won't be true for Earth. When the Sun and Moon align July 22, 2009, a cone of darkness will cut a narrow course through eastern Asia and the western Pacific, turning day to night and rewarding anyone who stands in the path with a sight they'll never forget.
The Moon's dark void will block the Sun's brilliant disk for several precious moments. Flaming-red solar prominences and ghostly coronal streamers will poke above the Moon's pitch-black limb. The amazing show will last up to 6 minutes and 39 seconds, making this the longest total solar eclipse of the 21st century
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