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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Total Eclipse of the Sun

A solar eclipse happens when the Moon passes in front of the Sun and blocks it either partially or completely.

Channel U (Singapore)
TV Live Simulcast
2009 Jul 22, Wednesday Morning between 8-11am
Special highlights: 11.30pm (Same Day)
In ancient China, legend has it that a heavenly dog swallowed the Sun! In modern day, astronomers explain that a solar eclipse happens when the Moon passes in front of the Sun and blocks it either partially or completely.

The programme will also cover topics including:
- Why and how do eclipses occur?
- Why is a total solar eclipse so captivating?
- Comparisons of past and current observations and studies
- What are the correct ways to view a solar eclipse
- How eclipses affect and fascinate both the western and eastern cultures in different ways

Total solar eclipses are rare events. Although total solar eclipses occur somewhere on Earth every 18 months on average, it has been estimated that they recur at any particular place only once every 370 years, on average. This means we may have to wait as long as 500 years for a chance to see a total solar eclipse from where we live! Totality can never last more than 7 min 31 sec, and is usually much shorter. For comparison, the longest eclipse of the 21st century on 22 July will last 6 min 39 sec, and will not be surpassed in duration until 13 June, 2132.


• In Hindu mythology, solar eclipse occurs when the bodiless demon Rahu swallows the Sun in revenge. The eclipse ends when the Sun slips out of his open neck.

• In ancient Egypt, the pharaohs (the clan of the ruling kings) believed they were direct descendants of the Sun. During an eclipse, they would walk around their main temple of Osiris till the eclipse was over, as the Sun should keep on moving continuously without any obstruction.

• According to the Ojibawas sect of the Red Indians, the solar eclipse signifies the extinguishing of the Sun. Consequently they hurl burning arrows into the sky so as to rekindle its original brightness.

• The Eskimos conceived that eclipses brought the Earth under bad influences, believing further that failure to place their utensils upside down before the deities would lead to widespread diseases. Even today Eskimo women follow this ritual for the duration of the eclipse.


This Wednesday 22 July 2009, a total eclipse of the Sun will be visible to some parts of the world, making it the longest total eclipse in the 21st century. The path of the moon’s umbra begins from India and crosses through Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar and China. After leaving mainland Asia, the path crosses Japan’s Ryukyu Islands and curves southeast through the Pacific Ocean where the maximum duration of totality reaches 6 min 39 sec.

Seen from Singapore, only 10 to 20 per cent of the Sun will be obscured. However, audience will get to catch the sensational moment of total eclipse live on Channel U. From 8 - 11am on 22 July, Channel U will simulcast live with China Central Television (CCTV) which will present live telecasts from key China cities - Chengdu, Wuhan, Tongling and Hangzhou where the total eclipse will be seen at its most spectacular. Special highlights will be shown at 11.30pm on the same day.

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