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Solar eclipse

All this talk of the partial solar eclipse in the UK this morning has reminded me of the first time I
witnessed a solar eclipse, and the ingenuity of some people.

It was the total solar eclipse in China on August 1st 2008. I was in Xian and I didn’t even know that there was going to be a solar eclipse. I only realised when I noticed that there were more people than usual gathered on the square near Xian’s famous Drum Tower and I asked someone.

It was kind of exciting as I’d never seen a solar eclipse before, and I wasn’t disappointed. If you
have not seen it before then keep your ear to the ground for the next one… it is one of those ‘see
before you die’ things.

To be honest though the best thing about this eclipse event for me was what was going on a around me.

One thing you shouldn’t do during an eclipse of the sun is to look at it directly with the naked eye, so
there were some pretty ingenious people around me improvising with x-rays, bits of plastic, and
and anything with a degree of transparency.

A couple of little entreprenuers were selling floppy discs… so I called them over to find out why.
I hadn’t seen a floppy disc for a while, and I’d forgotten that inside them they have a circular
strip of plastic on which the data is stored. These Chinese kids proceeded to break open the
disc and pulled out the disc inside and held it up to the sun. “Oh… I get it!” I thought…

As it was very thin it acted as a filter allowing you to see the sun without hurting your eyes – genius and a great money spinner!

As the solar eclipse progressed people were standing and watching on the street – all sorts of things were being used to view the spectacle – bits of plastic, film strips, and one group were using their relatives X-rays to view the eclispe, and I let one of them use the centre of the floppy disc too whilst I took a couple of snaps!

That’s certainly one novel way to view a solar eclipse!



I’ve seen it once in Malaysia, was very excited about it. Though, I’ve wished I’d taken photos back then. Great article, and loved the genius ideas people come up with


Oh yes, the old pinhole in a box… I was trying to remember that method when I was writing this post – thank goodness you survived!


I’m not sure I would have either – yikes!

Andy B

I’ve only seen one and that was a full eclipse in 1996. I was staying at a hotel in Cyprus. One minute I’m on a sunbed in over 30 degrees heat, next minute it’s freezing cold. A few days later I was on the same sunbed when an earthquake hit. I never went back to that hotel.


I remember mine! I was 5, in elementary school and we watched the passing through a pinhole in a box and I was so afraid I might look at the sun and go blind!

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