BY Yi Ling
URUMQI, July 22 (Xinhua) -- Even thought it was only
a partial eclipse for spectators in Urumqi, the two-hour solar event on
Wednesday carried a little more weight for astronomy lovers in Xinjiang's
capital city, which saw a deadly riot half month ago.
"Today is the happiest day I have had over the past
two weeks," said Han Zhaohui, a freshman from the Xinjiang Agricultural
University who calls himself a "huge fan" of astronomy.
"After staying home for days, it's really exciting to
watch the eclipse outdoors, but I didn't expect to share the great experience
with so many people," said the 20-year-old as he handed his modified binoculars,
especially equipped with a filter for solar eclipse viewing, to an old woman who
asked for borrowing it for a while.
More than 1,000 Urumqi citizens joined Han at the
downtown Southern Lake Square to watch the spectacle. The crowd brought pleasant
"trouble" for Song Huagang, secretary-general of the city's astronomical
society, which organized more than 50 members to observe the eclipse together at
"We had expected around 100 observers and prepared 30
observation glasses made of paper board and filters, and it's obviously not
enough now," said Song, adding that their 500 six-page handouts on the eclipse
were all distributed within 20 minutes.
Tension, however, was still in the air as teams of
police equipped with shields and batons patrolled the area and a police wagon
When the eclipse actually started at around 8:22
a.m., the waiting crowd became even more excited. A white astronomical
telescope, with a caliber of eight centimeters, became a hot spot as a
40-meter-long line of observers lined up for a 10-second look at the eclipse.
Accompanied by her grandmother, Xing Xue'er, a
sixth-grader with the city's No. 59 primary school, was thrilled to have her
first look at an eclipse through professional equipment.
"The sun looks like a moon as a part of it turns
black," said Xing." I watched the eclipse last year with a roll of used film and
it's not comparable with the telescope, which is more clear and vivid."
Kader Dan, a Uygur student with the No. 50 middle
school, is no stranger to professional observation facilities. The 14-year-old
boy, a member of the school's student astronomical study group, isa frequent
visitor to the city's planetarium and dreams of becoming a physical scientist
He came to watch the solar eclipse with eight friends
from the study group. They planned to draw a painting of the eclipse.
"It's a magic. Though there will be a lot of
pictures, surely much better than ours, we would like to keep a record by
ourselves in a way that ancient scientists did," he said.
Volunteers and researchers with the city's
astronomical observatory were either helping the observers to ensure viewing
accuracy and safety, or giving a brief lectures to the public on how the eclipse
Ali Isamyding, a Uygur astronomy researcher, called
for greater interest in science, especially astronomy, among the general public.
"It's a wonderful experience to watch the fabulous
performance by Nature. Just to think about it: Who else except Nature, has the
power to put the Earth, Sun and Moon in a line," said Isamyding.
According to Isamyding, Xinjiang, whose land area
accounts for about one-sixth of China's total, has a higher probability of being
able to watch eclipse than other areas in the country.
"Usually, we can watch an eclipse every two-to-three
years in Xinjiang and that's why a national observatory was set up in region,"
The region has a long history of astronomical study,
some of which were recorded in the Muslim classics Diwan Lughat Al-Turk
(Compendium of the Turkic Dialects) and Kutatku Bilik (Wisdom of Happiness),
both composed in the 11th century.
"Kutatku Bilik even gives detailed explanations on
modern 12 constellations, and we plan to carry out studies based on the
achievements of ethnic groups in Xinjiang in astronomy," he said.