EurAstro TSE 2009 mission to China
EurAstro 2009 & Total Solar Eclipse of 22.07.2009
The EurAstro 2009 Mission to China started by an ambitious tour of
Tibet, supervised by Eclipse-City's Xavier Jubier, for a group of
Belgians comprising Jessica ("Jess") Vandijck, Chairwoman, Cercle
Astronomique Mosan & EurAstro West; Anne de Klerk, Chairwoman, Cercle
Astronomique de Bruxelles, and friend Didier Claeys; and myself.
We first visited Lhasa and the famous Potala, then a number of Tibetan
cities and monasteries.
A demanding excursion led us to the Everest base camp.
To our delight, weather was sunny and warm, a rare circumstance in an
otherwise rainy season. After sunset, the sight of the Milky Way
spreading over the Himalayas with streaks of shooting stars was
breathtaking - not only because of the 5,200m elevation above sea level...
En route back to Lhasa, we stopped for an astronomy camp on the shore of
the Gamdrok Lake - the weather, though, had become stormy, resulting in
dramatic night scenes. Unexpectedly, light pollution (apparently caused by
a power plant next to a dam) was substantial.
A large EurAstro party of 26 participants led by Dr. Manfred Rudolf met
On July 20th, we visited the Shanghai Observatory, of unmistakable Jesuit
style. It houses a historical refractor and a more recent reflector.
Dr. Pedro Russo, IAU Coordinator for IYA2009, was with us. Surprise! Prof.
Dimitrie Olenici was also there (besides Pedro on the refractor picture),
oscillating his pendulum.
The day after, Eclipse-City had organised the second edition of the
symposium at the luxurious Shangri-La Pudong Hotel.
Pedro and a panel of distinguished speakers gave well-attended
The atmosphere of the symposium became tense as
word spread that weather prospects for the eclipse (less than 24 hours
away now) in the Shanghai area were terrible. Here, Pedro and Xavier are
about to decide to stay in the Shanghai region anyway.
Eclipse-City swiftly provided a relocation itinerary by plane to
Chongqing, on the totality zone some 1,500km west of Shanghai. Manfred,
the Belgians and several EurAstro participants thus left Shanghai. Under
punishing humid heat and air pollution, our group could observe the
whole of the eclipse from one of the few sunny places in China.
Images show the onset of totality under somewhat hazy skies.
A crowd of Chinese spectators had gathered in a park of Chongqing to see
the eclipse. Some of them noticed planet Venus almost at zenith. A broad
rumour announced the end of the totality, with small-size shadow bands
being seen, then a halo surrounding the Sun.
With our special thanks to Anne, whose husband provided us with crucial
professional weather information, and Didier who helped Eclipse-City
organise the Chongqing observations.
In view of her outstanding dedication, Jess was not only confirmed as
head of EurAstro West, but also elected as manager of our LAC
observatory in Jalhay, Belgium.
Picture credits: Didier Claeys, Jean-Luc Dighaye, Jérôme
Marot-Lassauzaie, Xavier Jubier, Jessica Vandijck