"It was a warning to the Emperor—for the Sun was the symbol of the Emperor according to traditional astrological theories. The record states that two court astrologers were beheaded because they didn't anticipate the total eclipse of the sun, and the emperor was mighty annoyed." Ancient China's eclipse record keeping steadily improved over the centuries thanks to continued refinements in the calendar system driven by a search for signs that might tell the emperor's future. Today astronomers can predict eclipses with great accuracy, and the ancient Chinese records — imperfect as they are — helped to make it possible. from "Eclipses in Ancient China Spurred Science, Beheadings?" on the National Geographic website 29 Jul 08;
The Singapore Science Centre is having a special Solar Eclipse Viewing today.
Date: 26 Jan (Mon)
Time: 4pm - 6pm
Venue: Omni-Theatre, Observatory
Free admission (No pre-registration required)
Celebrate Chinese New Year with a difference this year by catching 2009's first Solar Eclipse @ Science Centre! Join us for an audio and visual treat with live commentary and telescopic views. Get your pair of free solar glasses @ the Observatory from 4pm. Limited quantities available on a first-come-first-serve basis only.
Here's media reports of what was seen of the solar eclipse in Singapore and the region.
Chance to view rare celestial spectacle
The Star 26 Jan 09;
GEORGE TOWN: Malaysians can witness a solar eclipse today from 4.30pm to 7pm.
The National Planetarium will have a special programme from 4pm to give the public a chance to see the eclipse as it happens, the National Space Agency said in a statement.
Although only a part of the eclipse can be seen in Malaysia, enthusiasts will be able to see the moon obscuring 52% to 82% of the sun depending on their location.
A solar eclipse happens when the moon passes directly in front of the sun. Due to the relative distances, the sun would appear as a very bright ring behind the moon, resulting in an annular eclipse.
“The eclipse will begin at about 4.30pm in Malaysia when the moon first touches the sun’s disk,” the agency said.
The celestial spectacle will be more visible when the moon slowly covers the sun to form a crescent shape until maximum obscuration occurs at about 5.50pm.
“At its final contact around 6.55pm, the moon’s shadow slowly disappears just before sunset,” the agency said.
Geocosmic Centre of Yijing Meta-Science Research Malaysia academic consultant Dr Chuah Chong Cheng said solar and lunar eclipses during Chinese New Year were a rare phenomenon.
The next such occurence would be in 2026, he added.
“The same thing happened last year when a solar eclipse occurred on the first day of Chinese New Year on Feb 7 and the penumbral lunar one on Chap Goh Meh.”
Dr Chuah said for those who are superstitious, the solar and lunar eclipses could mean “double jeopardy”.
University Sains Malaysia’s Astronomy Atmospheric Science Unit lecturer Assoc Prof Chong Hon Yew advised people not to look directly at the sun but to use a solar filter when observing the eclipse or see its reflection in a pail of water so as not to damage their eyes.
Ring of fire: Indian Ocean to see solar eclipse
AFP Yahoo News 24 Jan 09;
PARIS (AFP) - - A few lucky people in the Indian Ocean will be treated to a rare event on Monday when an annular solar eclipse will transform the Sun into a dark disc with a blazing ring-shaped corona around its rim.
In solar eclipses, the Moon moves between the Sun and Earth, casting its shadow on the terrestrial surface.
In an annular eclipse, a tiny shift in distance that results from celestial mechanics means the Moon does not completely cover the Sun's face, as it does in a total eclipse.
Instead, for those directly under the alignment, the Moon covers most of the Sun's surface, and a ring-like crown of solar light blazes from the edge of the disk.
For those watching from the fringe of the track, the Sun is partially obscured, as if a bite has been taken out of it.
According to veteran NASA eclipse-watcher Fred Espenak, the total eclipse track will run from west to east on Monday from 0606 GMT to 0952 GMT.
It will traverse the Indian Ocean and western Indonesia before petering out just short of Mindanao, the Philippines.
The partial eclipse will be seen in a much wider swathe, including the southern third of Africa, Madagascar, Australia, Southeast India, Southeast Asia and Indonesia.
It will be the only annular solar eclipse this year. The last was on 7 February, 2007, and after Monday, the next one will be on 15 January, 2010.
The big event for eclipse junkies this year is on July 22, when a total solar eclipse will be visible from India and China, the world's two most populous countries.
List of solar eclipses for Singapore in the years 1700-2100
22 Jul 09: Solar eclipse in Singapore