Eclipse of the Century 2009

We’re back to Asia for our second TSE (total solar eclipse). It’s the longest of this century, coming in at our location around 6 1/2 minutes. We won’t see another eclipse of this length until the year 2132, so it’s a BIG DEAL in astromony circles, and in particular, that of the eclipse chaser.

We’ll be at sea, south of Japan, and *knock on wood* there won’t be a typhoon to obstruct the view. July is typhoon season, and weather is just one of the eclipse chasers’ foes. Usually they’re concerned about more sedate rain storms or simple clouds, getting their huge amounts of gear confiscated at the airport, and, once in a while, obtaining permits for restricted areas that fall under the moon’s shadow, also called the path of totality. For this trip, we also have to worry about getting quarantined for a week on arrival in China, thanks to the swine flu.

The eclipse will happen on July 22. I could say more about it, but you should just read this easy-to-undertand article published by a few of the most serious chasers I’ve met online: http://www.skyandtelescope.com/observing/highlights/50020537.html

Benjamin and I will be aboard a cruise ship departing from Shanghai and stopping in Korea and Japan before heading out to open seas for the big day–for this eclipse, the best chance for viewing success is at sea, as ships can more easily find and get to holes in clouds and bad weather. Plus, the polluted skies over China are iffy on a good day. The company we booked through has aptly named the excursion Eclipse of the Century. There is countdown clock on their web site, which now reads 14:02:17:36

It will be a first for us, traveling on a schedule that someone like Julie McCoy has developed–and on a tour. We like to swing with the breeze and avoid packaged travel, but the ocean offers the best options for witnessing this event, and I’m not such a great boat captain and while I am a pretty good swimmer, it’s just too far out.

You can see approximately where we’ll be on July 22, 2009 (and what the weather is like) here.

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