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July 22, 2009
Millions in Asia turn eyes to the sky for total solar eclipse

The longest solar eclipse of the 21st century occured on Wednesday morning in Asia, with millions watching. In some areas, the phenomenon lasted six minutes, causing dawn to turn to night almost immediately.

There were different reactions to the eclipse across Asia, from religious rituals in Thailand to state television coverage in North Korea. In India, the eclipse drew both pilgrims and tourists.

Watch videos of the eclipse and reactions by people in Bhutan from YouTube user bhutantour:

View images taken by Flickr users (under a Creative Commons license) in Bangladesh, Taiwan, China, India South Korea and Hong Kong.

Blogger Eric in Beijing describes how the pollution in China obscured much of the view:

Anticipating a bright, sunny day here in Beijing, I prepared a pinhole projector with which to safely view the sun and the partial eclipse here. Most of the time, I was staring at grey-white smog, but for a few seconds, the clouds parted and I got a nice glimpse of a partial solar eclipse through the pollution — no safety glasses necessary. It was a very amazing sight indeed.

Many across Asia reacted with superstition. As one Malaysian blogger wrote, “Some superstitious people thought [it] is a sign, [an] omen, [the] end of the world.” A Pakistani blogger at Deadpan Thoughts describes his grandmother’s fear of the eclipse:

This morning the world has just witnessed the longest solar eclipse of this century. It was best viewed from a small village in India…tour operators even ran special flights with earth and sun facing sides of seats going at different and exorbitant rates up to 69,000 Indian Rs. Upon reading all this and being chided by my nani to stay indoors early morning as its not very cool thing to see. My grandma believes like many people in south east asia that eclipses are evil.

Yaser, from the Philippines, describes some of the folklore associated with eclipses:

I was excited to feel again how I get terrified when I was still a child every time I hear stories about total eclipse. Some of the myth is that it’s the end of the world and some say that vampires, aswangs and bad spirits would come out and spread their demonic stuffs.

A blogger at Astronomy India shares — and debunks — some myths associated with eclipses:

Following are some common Myths associated with solar eclipses :

1. “One should not eat nor prepare any food during the eclipse, and one should throw away all the cooked food.” — In several eclipses since two decades I deliberately ate while watching the eclipse, nothing has happened and I am all healthy all the time. I believe thousands of others had done, without any ill effects afterwards.

2. “Pregnant women, should sleep on [the] floor, should not eat, and should not touch any sharp objects […]” — It’s all nonsense – as per the world/India population meter, every [minute and a half] a child is born and we haven’t seen any […] proof that a child born when [an] eclipse is going on in the sky, is born with any abnormality physically or mentally. There are many myths [and] superstitions connected with solar eclipses in various countries of the world. Instead of following unscientific methods, people around the world [should] view and enjoy such rare celestial spectacle.

Watch the eclipse from the Taiwanese viewpoint, courtesy of YouTube user sp018501:


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