Check out the full story here. Videos © New Scientist. Eclipse image courtesy of Alphonse Sterling, NASA.
STORY BEHIND THE STORY
Getting to the eclipse site was totally nuts. I flew into Dunhuang, a couple hundred kilometers further west of Jiayuguan on a flight full of eclipse chasers from Germany and the US.
In the days leading up to the 1st, thousands of eclipsers were pouring into the region from all over the world and local officials started to freak! We were told that entrance into the special Eclipse Cities they set up in the desert would now be road blocked and only those with prearranged permits would be allowed in. One group I was hoping to join for the event had to find a new viewing site after the place they'd been planning to use for a year was suddenly barred to foreigners a week before the event.
I couldn't really figure out what the big deal was until someone pointed out that the eclipse path cut through a lot of closed off military land including Jiuquan, the launch site of China's two recent manned space flights. Getting worked up over countless foreigners pouring across the desert with giant telescoping cameras suddenly started to make a lot more sense.