Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Total eclipse of the Sun and the landing on the Moon

Today was exciting for people in parts of India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar and China. They were able to see a total solar eclipse. The total eclipse of the sun will last for 6 minutes and 39 seconds at its height, and this is the longest total eclipse for this century--the next solar eclipse of this duration will be 123 years from now, in 2132.

This photo, from wikipedia, is of a partial eclipse people in Tainan, Taiwan saw this morning. For more photos of the eclipse--and I am sure we will see a lot when people start uploading--you can check out wikipedia's entry on today's eclipse.

According to this animated eclipse found on, Cambodia saw a partial eclipse, about 40-50%, if I am reading the diagram correctly.

The first contact in Phnom Penh was at 00:13:58.7 (GMT/UTC), or 7:13 am Cambodia time. The fourth (final) contact was at 02:13:28.5 or 9.13 am. The maximum eclipse occurred at 01:10:06.0, or 8:10 this morning in Cambodia. This information was found on NASA's website.

While on the subject of the cosmos and astronomy, 20 July 1969 was when man first landed on the moon, and there have been celebrations of the 40th anniversary of that momentous event. I really enjoyed watching this week's interviews with Buzz Aldrin, the second man to step foot on the moon, after Neil Armstrong. He is such a cool guy, with a great sense of humour. If you have not watched the interview Buzz gave to Ali G, go watch it now. I guarantee it will make you laugh.

And let's not forget there was a third astronaut, Michael Collins, one of the world's most experienced aviators, who had to man the spacecraft while his friends walked on the moon. He waited in desperate hope for a call from his fellow astronauts to say their lander craft had successfully blasted off from the Moon, petrified he would never hear from them in case the engine failed to ignite and the two men were left stranded on the moon, where their oxygen would run out. Or that the two astronauts would be stranded in orbit. Terrifying, when you think about it.

Apparently, all three astronauts believed there was a real chance such a disaster would occur and Armstrong thought his prospects were only 50-50 of making it back to Earth. The three men, all born in 1930, are so brave. Heroes, really.

I read all this in a fascinating article by Robin McKie, and published on Sunday in the Observer newspaper: "How Michael Collins became the forgotten astronaut of Apollo 11".
In fact, he [Michael Collins] was - in many ways - the unsung hero of the Apollo 11 mission, a point that was underlined at the time by the great American aviator Charles Lindbergh. He wrote to Collins, not long after his safe return, to tell him that his part of the mission was one of "greater profundity ... you have experienced an aloneness unknown to man before".
Finally, this is one of the reasons I love Google. Check out and you can have a tour of the Apollo 11 landings, so precise we can even see the exact spots where the men planted flags. I love, love, love nature and technology and writing and learning about all this has made me so happy. :)

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