NANJING, July 22 (Xinhua) -- To witness the longest solar eclipse of the 21st century, Chinese stargazers have fetched out their apparatus, cheap and homemade or fancy and sophisticated.
Liu Xiao, 29, an astronomer in Nanjing, capital of east China's Jiangsu Province, drove to a suburban observation post at 5:30 a.m. Wednesday to avoid rush hours traffic jam.
He brought with a 114-mm Newtonian telescope, a 25th birthday present given by his girlfriend.
Like many other amateur astronomers in the country, Liu's profession, a manager in a foreign trade company, has nothing to do with his hobby.
The sky was filled with thick cloud at about 8 a.m. when Liu joined a bunch of stargazers in Gaochun County, which lies just at the edge of the area where total solar eclipse could be seen.
"An annular solar eclipse occurred in Sept. 1987 when I was in the primary school. To observe it, classmates and I bought hardboard sunlight filters that cost five yuan, quite expensive at that time," Liu said.
"Some students used glass pieces painted with black ink to watch the sun and some even observed the eclipse through reflection from black ink in a basin," he said.
A 60-year-old woman brought a classical hardboard sunlight filter, a simple tool that she has reserved since the observation of a partial eclipse in 1999.
Liu's reflecting telescope was not the most sophisticated one brought by Chinese astronomical fans to observing posts around the country. At the Gaochun post, a senior amateur even set up a giant220mm refracting telescope that could automatically search celestial bodies.
The Chinese Academy of Sciences' Purple Mountain Observatory based in Nanjing also moved three radio telescopes to an observation post in Suzhou. The radio telescopes could probe the eclipse despite cloud and rain.
Other amateurs used either filtering film-cased telescopes with an objective lens in diameter of less than 80mm, or common binoculars to watch the sun shadowed by the moon gradually in and out of the cloud.
At the Gaochun post, Liu Xiao even found an observer wearing welding mask to watch the eclipse.
"I have never come up with such a novel idea," Liu said. "but I know the sun is green behind that mask as it could not filter green light."
"No matter what kind of apparatus the stargazers use, they have the same enthusiasm in astronomical phenomena," Liu said.