Jul 22, 2009

Solar eclipse day

When I think of solar eclipses, it's hard to not think about one other thing: the human sacrifice scene in Apocalypto. Apocalypto is, of course, a great family Chrismas movie, but it's even more fitting to reference it on the day of a full eclipse. I'll run through the great scene from the movie since it's so cool:
Our hero Jaguar Paw and his companions have been captured by an enemy tribe and sold. They've been chained together and painted from head to toe in blue. They're all wondering why.

A Mayan priest/politician gets the crowd riled up. He's like a Mayan Jeremiah Wright.

One after another, each of the blue painted men are bent backwards over a stone altar.

The priest takes aim, and...

...cuts each man's beating heart out of his chest as a sacrifice.

Then the head gets chopped off and unceremoniously kicked down the temple steps.

The bodies are piled off to the side.

This continues again and again until the high priest notices a sign from the gods:

The sun starts to become darker and darker

...and finally a full eclipse. The gods are satisfied with the sacrifices, and the rest of the blue men can go free now. Go Jaguar Paw!

Back to real life, and the actual eclipse in Beijing:

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. However, it turns out that the pollution was so abysmal today (AQI between 300-400) that you couldn't even see where the sun was in the sky.

This was no problem for me, since I have the outdoor skills of a Cub Scout. I already knew which direction was north, so then I used the famous Bear Grylls technique to figure out where the sun should be at 9:30 AM, the time when the partial eclipse was around its maximum in Beijing. (find the point between 9:30 and 12:00 on your watch dial, make it point due south; the hour hand of your watch is now pointing about where the sun should be)

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.

I'm too much of an amateur to take a good photo of the smoggy eclipse, but here's a screenshot of CNN's eclipse coverage in Chongqing:

Happy eclipse day!


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