Celestial dating rules

At the heart of Chinese mythology are four spiritual creatures (Sì Shòu 四獸) -- four celestial emblems -- each guarding a direction on the compass.

In China, the four date back to at least the 2nd century BC.

“I think it’s wonderful to be married to somebody with a passion,” said Patricia Espenak, 73.

The two have turned their love for eclipses into a full-time hobby.

Ancient Chinese mythical animals associated with the four cardinal directions: green/blue dragon (Chn: Qinglong 青龍, Jp: Seiryuu) of the east; white tiger (Chn: Baihu 白虎, Jp: Byakko) of the west; red phoenix (Ch: Zhuque 朱雀, Jp: Suzaku) of the south; and black warrior (Chn: Xuan Wu 玄武, Jp: Genbu) of the north, a tortoise-like chimera with the head and tail of a serpent.

Fred and Patricia Espenak, both retired, now live in Arizona Sky Village, an eastern Arizona village designed for astronomers who want to make observations with minimal light pollution.

“I’ve always wanted to live someplace where I could go out and really see the Milky Way any night,” Fred Espenak said.

They travel the world together, from China to Antarctica, chasing the celestial phenomena.

“All my world travels, with solar eclipses, [have] given me a greater appreciation for different cultures,” Fred Espenak said.

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