Superstitions Surround Rare Event in Asia
By Michael Casey
Millions of people across Asia will witness the longest total solar eclipse that will happen this century, as vast swaths of India and China, the entire city of Shanghai and southern Japanese islands are plunged into darkness Wednesday for about five minutes.
Streams of amateur stargazers and scientists are traveling long distances to witness the once-in-a-lifetime event.
Astronomers hope the eclipse will unlock clues about the sun, while an astrologer in Myanmar predicts it could usher in chaos. Some in India are advising pregnant relatives to stay indoors to follow a centuries-old tradition of avoiding the sun's invisible rays.
The eclipse will appear first at dawn in India's Gulf of Khambhat just north of the metropolis of Mumbai.
It will move east across India, Nepal, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Bhutan and China before hitting the Pacific. The eclipse will cross some southern Japanese islands and be last visible from land at Nikumaroro Island in the South Pacific nation of Kiribati. Elsewhere, a partial eclipse will be visible in much of Asia.
For astronomers, it will be a chance for a prolonged view of the sun's corona, a white ring 600,000 miles from the sun's surface. The previous total eclipse, in August 2008, was two minutes and 27 seconds. This one will last 6 minutes and 39 seconds at its maximum point.
Solar scientist Lucie Green is aboard an American cruise ship heading for that point near the Japanese island of Iwo Jima, where the axis of the moon's shadow will pass closest to earth.
See: Ominous Predictions