August 1, 2008—During Friday morning's rare total solar eclipse, light from the sun's outer atmosphere, or corona, makes silhouettes of a man and camel in China's Gansu Province (solar eclipse facts).
The first dark signs of Friday's solar eclipse occurred early over the Canadian Arctic. The moon's shadow then arced eastward across Greenland, central Mongolia, and finally China.
The eclipse reached totality—when the sun is completely hidden by the moon—for a little over two minutes. (Get the facts behind the August 1 total solar eclipse.)
A plane flies in front of the sun and over Upminster, U.K. during the partial eclipse on August 1, 2008. Unlike ancient Chinese, the pilots were unlikely to have been on the lookout for scaly sky monsters.
According to NASA astrologer Sten Odenwald, it wasn't until about the first century A.D. that Chinese astrologers understood that the moon had a role in solar eclipses.
Before then, "they tended to think more mythologically, that there was a dragon taking a chomp out of the sun and that sort of thing." (See "Eclipses in Ancient China Spurred Science, Beheadings?" [July 29, 2008].)
Wearing protective glasses, Neza (left), 9, and Ula Pintaric, 11, watch a partial solar eclipse in Hyde Park, London on Friday August 1, 2008.
During a typical total solar eclipse, roughly 50 percent of the daytime world can see at least a partial eclipse, but only about one percent witness the moon totally blotting out the sun.
"On a scale of one to ten, a partial eclipse is of some interest," NASA eclipse expert Fred Espenak said. "A total eclipse on that scale is ten million. It can't be compared to anything else. It should be on everybody's life list."
Photos show the different stages of a solar eclipse above the Jiayuguan fortress along the Great Wall of China on August 1, 2008.
The eclipse achieved totality (shown in the last frame) for just over two minutes.
Using a special filter, a man observes a partial solar eclipse in Riga, Latvia on August 1, 2008.
Such filters or special glasses are required for eye safety when directly viewing solar eclipses. Tom Burns, an observatory director in Ohio, has heard of people trying to view eclipses through sunglasses, compact discs, or—surprisingly—Pop Tart bags.
"The only time it's safe to observe an eclipse through a Pop Tart bag is if the Pop Tart is still in it," he told National Geographic News.
A total solar eclipse darkens China's 14th-century Jiayuguan fortress in Gansu Province on August 1, 2008.
In ancient times a solar eclipse—called rishi, or "eaten sun," in Chinese—was seen as an evil omen in China. Imperial astrologers are said to have literally lost their heads 4,000 years ago for not predicting a solar eclipse.
A girl safely watches a partial solar eclipse through a telescope in Kiel, Germany, on Friday, August 1, 2008.
About 25 percent of all solar eclipses are total eclipses, and there are about seven of these a decade. But at any given location, a total eclipse will be visible only about once every 375 years—making today's sky show a once-in-a-lifetime event for many.
More photos: See recent solar eclipses >>
Posted By cahPamulang to cahPamulang at 8/04/2008 11:42:00 AM