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WHEN EAST MEETS WEST: Rare eclipse spoiled by Weather in parts of Japan


Commentary by Hank F. Miller Jr.

Scientist and amateur stargazers on Japan's southwestern islands were mostly 41372632 disappointed Wednesday after poor weather prevented them form witnessing a total eclipse of the sun.

However, astronomers who were on Iwojima, and also here on Kyushu Island, about 1,350 Km south of Tokyo, and adjacent areas in the Pacific were treated to the spectacular astronomical event as they observed the first total eclipse visible on Japanese soil in 46 years. I watched the whole event here in my garden in Kitakyushu,City,with my wife Keiko and daughter Rachel who is home for her summer vacation from Portland State University located in Portland ,Oregon.

Afterwards we went into our home and watched China CCTV live broadcasts from Shanghi.

On Amamai Oshima Island,Okinawa,and Kogashima where a total eclipse of only 3 minutes and 32 seconds began at 09:55 a.m.,spectators who had come from across Japan and abroad expressed great delight.

On Akuseki Island in the southern Tokara chain,the sun was hidden by the clouds at 09:35 a.m., when it was due to start darkening for a total eclipse of 6 minutes and 25 seconds.

A span that would have been visible from a residential areas in Japan.

Kinki Nippon Tourist Co.,which organized  the expensive observation tours to the island,called on visitors to take shelter at a local gymnasium and other places in the morning,this was due in part to very heavy rains and winds which they observed could turn into a tropical storm and then a typhoon.The time for observing the eclipse ended before 11:00 a.m.,with rain clouds continuing along with strong winds.

The longest  total solar eclipse of the 21st century was visible along a roughly 250-kilometer wide corridor, according to NASA, as it traveled half the globe and passed over India and China.The eclipse - visible only in Asia - moved north and east  from India to Napal, Myanmar,Bangladesh,Bhutan and China.In some parts of Asia it only lasted for as long as 6 minutes and 39 seconds. It was the longest such eclipse since July 11, 1991.

The longest solar eclipse of the 21st century cast a shadow over much of Asia on Wednesday,plunging hundreds of millions into darkness across the giant land masses of India and China.Ancient superstition and modern commerce came together in a once-in-lifetime opportunity likely to end up being the most watched eclipse in history, due to its path over Earth's most densely inhabited areas.

While bad weather confounded some eclipse watchers,tens of thousands of people gathered at dawn on the banks of the Ganges River in Varanasi where a largely cloudless morning offered a stunning view. As I watched the broadcast in English of the State-run China Central Television,provided minute-by-minute coverage of what it dubbed "The Great Yangtze River Solar Eclipse"as the phenomenon cut a path along the river's drainage basin.

millions of people in areas of southwestern China enjoyed a clear line of sight,according to the images broadcast on CCTV,But much the view was obstructed along its path by cloudy weather.Shanghai viewers braved rain and overcast skies to witness the spectacle as darkness shrouded China's commercial hub at 09:36 a.m."It was working hours now,but with such a spectacle going on, you surly didn't want to miss it."

Others opted to stay home and shuttered their windows, fearful of the effects of the lunar shadow,which some in China and India believe can lead to birth defects in pregnant women. Superstition has always haunted the moment when Earth,moon and sun are perfectly aligned. The daytime extinction of the sun, the source of life, is associated with war, famine, flood and the death of birth of rulers.The ancient Chinese blamed a sun-eating dragon.In Hindu mythology,the two demons Rahu and Ketu are said to"swallow"

the sun during eclipses, snuffing out its light and causing food to become inedible and water undrinkable.

Here on Kyushu Island we're still experiencing monsoon season with rain nearly every day, but the weather bureau has forecast heavy rains for Saturday and Sunday.

The rainy season or monsoon season here started at the beginning of June and usually finishes at the end of July. We had little rain in the beginning and heavy rains half way through the season.So the monsoon season came in like a lamb and seems to be going out like a lion.

Until next time,Warm Regards from Kitakyushu,City, Japan.Have a real great summer !

Hank F. Miller Jr.