Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Good Eclipse Viewing from Bad Rock Island

Akuseki (Bad Rock) Island has seen its population of 77 more than triple in recent days as astronomy buffs from around the world seek the best location to view the July 22 solar eclipse, which from the vantage of the island will be total. If the weather cooperates, the eclipse will be visible from the island for 6 minutes and 25 seconds (nowhere longer), making Akuseki an ideal eclipse-watching spot . One has to be serious about eclipses, though, to make the journey to the island. It is an 11 hour ferry journey from the port of Kagoshima, on the island of Kyushu, and service is only twice weekly. There is accomodation for 66 guests at the island's 5 inns, meaning most visitors will have to stay in tents pitched for the celestial event, which falls during Japan's monsoon season. But a total solar eclipse will not be visible from Japan again this century, and indeed it has been 46 years since the previous. Japan's public broadcaster, NHK, sent a camera crew to film the welcome ceremonies for the first arrivals. There was a performance by all 9 students at the island's sole school (K-grade 9) beautifully singing the village song and introducing the visitors to the island and its customs.

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