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Exploratorium: Total Solar Eclipse 2008 Live from China

Overnight Celebration!

Thursday, July 31, 9:00 p.m. – Friday, August 1, 6:00 a.m.


3:30 a.m. 4:08 a.m.–4:10 a.m. 4:30 a.m.
Live Webcast of the eclipse begins. TOTALITY! Live Webcast ends.

On the evening of July 31, and continuing into the wee hours of August 1, the Exploratorium presents a live Webcast of the total solar eclipse from Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in northwestern China near the Mongolian border. To celebrate this evocative locale along the ancient trade route called the Silk Road, the Exploratorium presents performances, hands-on activities, storytelling, and installations that highlight the cultural diversity of this region. At our overnight celebration, you'll encounter the Turkic cultures of the Uygur, Uzbek, and Kazakh, as well as the cultures of Mongolia and China.

We'll also feature a host of astronomy-related activities, designed to help people of all ages understand eclipse science. You'll get to interact with an installation that represents the sun's surface, make a paper model of an eclipse, and help build a telescope! Roving astronomers, educators, and a NASA astronaut will answer all your eclipse-related questions. Film installations and Hooked on the Shadow , a documentary about eclipse chasers, round out a captivating evening of astronomy, central Asian cultures, and the awe-inspiring eclipse itself.

Please arrive early to find a good location from which to enjoy the night's activities. Sleeping bags, pillows, blankets, folding chairs, and snacks are welcome (but no glass, please). Our café will be open from 9:00 p.m. to midnight, offering food (some organic) and drinks. There will be rest areas for those who want to catch some shuteye. The Webcast begin at 3:30 a.m. PDT (10:30 UT), August 1, and continues until 4:30 a.m. PDT. Exploratorium staff scientists and NASA Sun-Earth Connection Education Forum scientists will be in our Webcast studio talking with our China-based eclipse team, demonstrating the science behind an eclipse, and answering questions from the museum and Internet audiences.

Peets Coffee & Tea

We thank Peet's Coffee and Tea for their generous donation of tea and coffee.

Total Solar Eclipse 2008 Program Schedule

9:00 p.m.

Museum doors open.


Films & Installations

Cinema Arts Program: Three short films will be playing off and on all through the evening on screens throughout the museum. They'll also be shown in the McBean Theater at the following times: 9:00 p.m.–10:00 p.m., 10:30 p.m.–11 p.m., and 11:30 p.m.–midnight. A longer film, Hooked on the Shadow, will be shown in the McBean at midnight, 1:00 a.m., and 2:00 a.m.

Energie! (2007, 5 min.), by Thorsten Fleisch, is a stunning new video incorporating photographic paper exposed to an uncontrolled high voltage discharge.

Briliant Noise (2006, 6 min.), by Semiconductor (Ruth Jarman and Joe Gerhardt), takes us into the data vaults of solar astronomy, bringing together some of the sun's finest unseen moments with a soundtrack highlighting the hidden forces at play upon the solar surface.

In Flight404 (2008, 4 min.), by Robert Hodgin, radiant orbs dance, play, and emit enchanting patterns within lush, computer-generated landscapes. The stunning visuals are paired with a calming soundtrack.

Hooked on the Shadow: A Solar Eclipse Documentary (2000, 24 min.), by David Makepeace, chronicles the obsessive subculture of the eclipse chasers—people whose lives have been transformed by what they see in the sky.

(Scenes and Songs from Xinjiang): Immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of Xinjiang inside a traditional yurt. Field recordings, as well as regional music by Fausto Caceres, will play inside the yurt, while the walls will feature recent photos of Xinjiang's capital, Urumqi; Heaven Lake; and the Xinjiang landscape.

Walk on the Sun: Walk across images of the sun's surface, and your movements will activate musical sounds based on actual solar data. Created and facilitated by Marty Quinn of Design Rhythmics Sonification Research Lab.

9:00 p.m.–midnight


Chinese American International School Dance Troupe


9:15 p.m. & 10:15 p.m.
Taijiquan (Tai Chi) Demonstrations: The Taoist Tai Chi Society of the USA demonstrates the internal art of taijiquan. The meditative movements of taijiquan can reduce tension, increase flexibility and strength, and improve circulation and balance.

9:30 p.m. & 10:30 p.m.
China's Spirit Music Ensemble will perform songs on the guzheng, a stringed instrument from the zither family that has been played in China since 300 B.C. Two 30-minute sets.

10:15 p.m.
Maidens in the Vineyard , a Uygur dance, will be performed by students from the Chinese American International School Dance Troupe, who have been featured at the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival, Davies Symphony Hall, and the Asian Art Museum.

10:00 p.m. & 11:00 p.m.
Storytelling: Astronomy folk tales from China with local luminary Charlie Chin, drawing from the “Teahouse” style of traditional Chinese storytelling. (McBean Theater)

11:00 p.m.
Solo Mongolian dance performance, followed by traditional instrumental music and Tuvan throat singing by Mongolian musicians.

9:00 p.m.–11:00 p.m.

Stargaze with the San Francisco Amateur Astronomers and the San Francisco Sidewalk Astronomers. (Parking lot near main entrance)

9:00 p.m.–midnight

Ask an Astronomer: Roving astronomers in white lab coats will be on the floor to answer questions about eclipses and other events of the skies.

9 p.m.–1 a.m.

Hands-On Activities Exploring Astronomy and Central Asian Arts

Noisemakers: In Asia, it's traditional to make a lot of noise during an eclipse to chase away the dragon who is swallowing the sun. We’ll make percussion instruments based on instruments found along the Silk Road.

Create your own painted tile inspired by textiles and patterns of Uygur, Kazakh, Uzbek, Mongolian, and Chinese origin.

Roll up your sleeves and help the San Francisco Amateur Astronomers build a telescope.

Try your hand at Chinese, Uygur and Mongolian calligraphy.
Learn how to write astronomy terms such as moon, star, earth, and sun.

Learn about eclipses with astronomers from NASA's Sun-Earth Connection Education Forum.

Make your own spectrascope (rainbow viewer).

midnight–12:30 a.m. & 2:30–3:00 a.m.

Eclipse Science

Learn all about eclipses with staff scientists Linda Shore and Ron Hipschman.
(Webcast Studio)

3:00 a.m.

Dragon Dancers ring in the eclipse and wake us up for the Webcast.

3:30 a.m.

Live Webcast of the eclipse begins.

4:08 a.m.–4:10 a.m.


4:30 a.m.

Live Webcast ends.

4:45 a.m.–5:15 a.m.

Instructor-led Taijiquan (Tai Chi)

Welcome the day with taijiquan. Come learn a few moves of this meditative internal art led by Jo Ann Arnold, an instructor from the Taoist Tai Chi Society of the USA.

We'd like to thank:

San Francisco Sidewalk Astronomers
San Francisco Amateur Astronomers
Chinese American International School Dance Troupe
China's Spirit Music Ensemble
Leung's White Crane Dragon Dance Association
Taoist Tai Chi Society of the USA
Peets Coffee & Tea
Deborah Clearwaters and John Stucky of the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco

©2008 Exploratorium