Chiayi gears up for annular solar eclipse events

An annular solar eclipse pictured in New Taipe in May 2012(CNA)

TAIPEI (CNA) — There will be a series of events held in Chiayi City around June 21 in central Taiwan, one of the areas around the world where people can observe the entire process of an annular solar eclipse, Chiayi City Mayor Huang Min-hui (黃敏惠) said Monday.

Attending an event in Taipei to promote the event, Huang invited members of the public to visit her city for the occasion and enjoy the distinctive food of the area, such as turkey rice and fish head casserole.

According to the Chiayi City government, there will be astronomical lectures given at Beisianhu Park, the main venue of the city-wide events, on both June 20 and June 21.

There will also be art installations, performances, markets and observation activities at the venue, while similar events will be held in other places in Chiayi County, such as the Tropic of Cancer Solar Exploration Center, the Alishan Forest Recreation Area, the High-Heel Wedding Church and the Southern Branch of the National Palace Museum.

In addition, the city government has launched a photo contest for the solar eclipse, as well as various package tours.

The much-anticipated celestial event — shaped like a corona — will be visible to people in parts of Yunlin, Chiayi, Tainan, Kaohsiung, Nantou, Hualien and Taitung, as well as the outlying islands of Penghu and Kinmen, according to the Taipei Astronomical Museum.

The phenomenon occurs when the moon passes between the sun and the earth, covering the sun’s center but leaving its outer rim, or corona, visible, forming an annulus around the moon, the museum said.

The eclipse will start at about 2:49 p.m. and end at 5:25 p.m. in Chiayi, with the complete “ring of fire” expected to occur at around 4:13 p.m. for 58 seconds, the museum said.

The sky will not get significantly darker, however, as is the case in a total solar eclipse, experts said.

In Taipei, for instance, observers can expect the climax of the event to take place at around 4:13 p.m., when the sun will be blocked and appear more like a new moon, according to the museum.

The occasion will be livestreamed between 2:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. on June 21 at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCSZYfZhpHUnpGGdgUhiYEEw, with lectures to be held online on May 17, 31 and June 7.

A special free exhibition on solar eclipses is currently being held, which will run through October, the museum added.

In Taitung, meanwhile, the local government is organizing an event to help people observe the eclipse.

During this event, 1,000 astronomical observation telescopes and 500 picnic mats will be available, while music and folk dance performances will be staged, according to the Chihshang Township office.

Experts cautioned that people should use protective eyewear or the pinhole method to prevent damage to their eyes when viewing the eclipse.

The spectacle will not occur again until 2070 in Taiwan, when the eclipse will be visible in only parts of Pingtung.

The next time an annular solar eclipse covering such a large percentage of the sun in Taiwan will not occur until June 28, 2215, according to the museum.

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