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To See or Not to See

By: Tunc Tezel

 

Region: Asia

Site: Shanghai - China

Date: 2009 July 22

The eclipsed sun in the longest total solar eclipse of the century as seen on 22 July 2009 from Jinshanwei in Shanghai region.
As noted by the photographer "Since my arrival in Shanghai on July 19th, it was very hot and humid, apparently a record in many years. We left the city for Jinshanwei, on the coast of East China Sea 60 km to the south to gain half a minute of more totality. But it started to rain in the evening. The bad forecast was going worse each hour. When I realize better forecast for Wuhan, we departed at 2 am on 22nd July, with less than 10 hours to totality and a few hundred kilometers to cover. For some reason our taxi driver (with little English) took the expressway going to Nanjing instead of Huzhou (and eventually Wuhan) so after 200 km, we were coming closer to the northern edge of umbral path. Around the city of Wuxi, I told the driver we stop here and go no further. So we checked around Tai Hu Lake southwest of Wuxi for suitable places and holes in the sky. An hour before sunrise, still no improvement in the weather and soon it started to rain again. I said Okay, I give up, let's return. On the way back to Jinshanwei, at about 9 am, just few minutes to the total eclipse, and close to Jinshanwei, and still no sign of the sun. The surrounding was quickly getting dark. We stopped and suddenly the driver showed a brighter patch of clouds and I immediately grabbed my 100-400 telephoto lens and 10-22 wide angle. Yes, there was some action up there. And it got very dark, totality must have begun. Moments later, there was another brightening patch again and this time... Wow! I amazingly see the corona. My number 4... After looking up for a few seconds, I grab the camera and manage to shoot a few pictures. The first ones are shaky. Then I run to a lamp post, lean the camera on it: Still shaky. Turn the Image Stabilizer on and Now its good. Can I ask for more? Yes, the corona is still there, easily visible. Like a magic trick, in the overcast sky, there is a bright corona. And I even manage to take a decent wide angle picture. And the eclipse is still visible... Then it is finally lost in the clouds. Soon enough, the surroundings began to brighten, it is over. We see a thin crescent of Sun for one last time and it went under the clouds, nothing else. Later I checked the time data of the pictures and we must have seen more than 4 minutes of totality. We had stopped just 2 km from our hotel and a big hole to allow 4 minutes of the eclipse. I assumed our group also got to see it but unfortunately they were clouded only few kilometers away. So, it took more than 7 hours and a 450-km round trip to see the totality, but we were within shooting distance of where we started!" Tunc Tezel

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