Solar Eclipse on July 22 may be most viewed ever

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Washington, July 21 (ANI): The total solar eclipse passing over some of Earth's most densely populated regions on Wednesday, July 22, 2009, may become the most viewed eclipse ever.

People across central India and in parts of Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Myanmar will briefly find themselves in daytime darkness before the solar eclipse proceeds into China.

Most of the best viewing opportunities are in China, where some 30 million people will be able to witness the solar eclipse in the coastal cities of Shanghai and Hangzhou alone, according to veteran eclipse scientist Jay Pasachoff of Williams College in Massachusetts.

The eclipse will then continue east, passing over Japan's Ryukyu Islands before reaching its maximum duration point over the Pacific Ocean, where the sun will be completely blocked by the moon for 6 minutes and 39 seconds, according to NASA scientist Fred Espenak.

Thousands of overseas tourists and potentially millions of Chinese are flocking to areas along the eclipse path, where hotels are charging higher rates, according to Chinese media reports.

The July 2009 total solar eclipse is expected to have the longest duration of totality in the 21st century, experts say, and should give Pasachoff plenty of data to keep him and his team busy for months.

Pasachoff will see only about five and half minutes of totality from a site in eastern China, but "once you have five minutes-plus of totality, the extra minute that we could have seen is not significant," he added.

Pasachoff and his team will observe the solar eclipse from a remote hotel at an altitude of about 3,000 feet (900 meters) on Tianhuangping, a mountain outside the Chinese city of Hangzhou. The location sits above pollution that could obstruct a full view of the eclipse.

He chose the site years in advance so he could witness the longest totality from the Asian mainland.

Teams of astronomers from around the world have already joined him at Tianhuangping.

"We brought about half a ton of equipment and picked up an equal amount borrowed here from our Chinese colleagues, so there is a lot to get ready," he added.

According to Rollie Anderson, a retired actuary from St. Louis, Missouri, "The cosmic coincidence that the sun and moon both appear in the sky as the same size, and then, on top of that, they line up every now and again. Just the very idea of that is pretty mind-blowing." (ANI)

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