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Astronomer announces century's longest total eclipse July 22
Central News Agency
2009-06-18 08:26 PM
Taipei, June 18 (CNA) A local astronomer said Thursday that July 22 will mark the century's longest and most spectacular total solar eclipse.

Sun Wei-hsin, a professor at National Taiwan University's (NTU's) Graduate Institute of Astrophysics, made the announcement at a news conference hosted by the Cabinet-level National Science Council (NSC).

Noting that the United Nations has designated 2009 as the International Year of Astronomy, Sun said more than 140 countries around the world have been sponsoring activities to promote scientific and astronomical education during the year.

"One of the most fascinating activities this year will be observing the upcoming total solar eclipse, " Sun said, adding that people should not miss the opportunity to witness the event.

The solar eclipse will be total through a narrow corridor stretching from northern India, eastern Nepal, northern Bangladesh, Bhutan, the northern tip of Myanmar, central China and a narrow ribbon of the Pacific Ocean that includes the Marshall Islands and Kiribati, Sun said, adding that the eclipse will also be partially visible in Taiwan.

"This solar eclipse will be the longest total eclipse to occur in the 21st Century, " Sun went on.

According to Sun, total solar eclipses are rare and only 28 percent of the average 238 eclipses that occur each century are total eclipses.

"This means that a total solar eclipse appears once every one-and-a-half years, " Sun said, adding that it takes an average of 450 years for a total solar eclipse to be visible at the same location twice.

In Taiwan, the last total solar eclipse was seen around the northern port city of Keelung in 1941 and the next one is expected to be visible near the Hengchun peninsula in the south in 2070, Sun said.

"Local people will be able to see an 'almost total' annular partial eclipse July 22, " Sun said, adding that Taiwan people won't be able to see such a similar scene until 2046.

Pointing out that the ancient Chinese have used beautiful and poetic terms to describe the five stages of a total solar eclipse, Sun said many Chinese people are enthusiastically waiting for the arrival of the rare astronomical event.

In Taiwan, the NSC is collaborating with the Ministry of Education, Academia Sinica and the Council for Cultural Affairs to organize a series of outdoor activities this summer to inspire local interest in astronomy.

These activities will include a lights-down campaign that will be held June 21 in which local people will be encouraged to turn off lights and go outdoors to observe the skies.

In July, a series of astronomy education camps will be organized for youngsters from Taiwan and other Asia-Pacific countries. In addition, a science festival will take place Aug. 8 through mid-September to boost astronomical education.

In related news, prospective participants in an astronomy education program organized by NTU's Graduate Institute of Astrophysics can register online at http://star.phy.ntu.edu.tw/astronomy.php.

(By Sofia Wu)

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