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Partial solar eclipse thrills early risers

Zhang Zhihao
Updated: Jan 7,2019 8:37 AM     China Daily

A partial solar eclipse is observed as the moon passes in front of the sun in Beijing on Jan 6. [Photo/China Daily]

Stargazers in central, eastern and northern parts of China were treated to a partial solar eclipse on the morning of Jan 6, the first of two solar eclipses viewable from China this year.

The eclipse began at around 7:40 am and reached its peak at around 8:30 am, blocking about a quarter of the sun. A partial solar eclipse occurs when the moon comes between the sun and Earth but blocks only a portion of the sun.

The celestial event raised both excitement and disappointment on China’s social media.

Early birds from parts of Northern China were thrilled to witness the partial eclipse in its full glory, but many from central-eastern and southern regions were left unsatisfied due to bad weather or smog blocking the view.

“I have experienced four solar eclipses in my life, but I couldn’t see them due to overcast skies and rain, and today is no exception,” said Sina Weibo user Yingpan Xiaofeng, from Jiangsu province.

This will be the first of three solar eclipses this year. A total solar eclipse and an annular solar eclipse will occur on July 2 and Dec 26, respectively.

An annular solar eclipse is when the moon covers all but a bright ring around the sun. Although the former won’t be visible in China, the latter can be seen around the country. Special filter glasses are required to safely observe the solar eclipse.

January will see astronomical events across the world that include a total lunar eclipse and the prolific Quadrantids meteor shower, according to the Purple Mountain Observatory of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

One of the rarest and biggest events this month will be a supermoon total lunar eclipse on Jan 21. During the night, the moon will move to the opposite side of Earth from the sun, and its face will be fully illuminated, making the moon seem larger and brighter than usual.

This is also the first of three supermoons for 2019. On Jan 21, however, the supermoon will pass completely through Earth’s dark shadow, gradually getting darker and then taking on a rusty or blood-red color in a total lunar eclipse.

The event will be visible throughout most of North America, South America, western Europe and western Africa. Unfortunately, stargazers from China won’t be able to witness this rare event, which last took place in 2015.

On Jan 22, a conjunction of the planet Venus and Jupiter, two of the brightest celestial bodies in Earth’s sky, will appear in the early morning.

The two planets will be positioned closely together, with Jupiter slightly situated to the bottom right of Venus, allowing them to fit within the field of view of binoculars.

Typically, a conjunction of Venus and Jupiter happens once per year. But this year has two, with the other one expected on Nov 24. Both events are observable in China.