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In China, a thoroughly modern view of annular solar eclipse

Many Beijingers did not take note of the once-in-a-millennium annular solar eclipse, a sharp change from the time when Chinese were highly attuned to the movements of celestial bodies.


O tempora! O mores! There was a time when a once-in-a-millennium event like Friday’s annular eclipse of the sun would have struck terror into the hearts of the Chinese, attuned to the movements of celestial bodies and their earthly significance.

Today, however, nobody in Beijing seemed even to notice the fact that 80 percent of the sun was obliterated by the moon for more than 10 minutes, just before people went home from work.

Even in the Southwestern city of Chongqing, where the eclipse was full, leaving only a ring of fire around the moon’s black hole, life went on as normal, residents said.

This was mainly because unless you were actually looking directly at the sun, through a strip of unexposed camera film for example, you would not have been aware that anything was happening. In Beijing and Chongqing, the sun’s light was not noticeably diminished even at the fullest point of the eclipse.

Few people were even aware there was going to be an eclipse today, and paid it little heed when they were told about it or saw it for themselves.

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