If 2009 is the International Year of Astronomy, then the past few days definitely qualify as The #1 Week of that year. Not only did we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the first footsteps of a man on the Moon and observed an Earth-sized dark stop on Jupiter exactly 15 years after comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 plunged into Jupiter’s southern hemisphere “in a 1 in 15,000 years event”, but early today, countless spectators in East Asia saw another spectacular show of the nature.
The longest total solar eclipse of the 21st century (unmatched until Jun 13, 2132), began just off the coast of India at 00:51:16.9 UTC and ended in Polynesia at 04:19:26.5 UTC. At maximum (02:35:21 UTC) about 100 km south of the Bonin Islands, southeast of Japan, the eclipse lasted stunning 6 minutes and 38.8 seconds. The uninhabited North Iwo Jima island was the landmass with totality time closest to maximum, while the closest inhabited point was Akusekijima, where the eclipse lasted 6 minutes and 26 seconds.