Crowds cheer as total solar eclipse
of 2012 begins
The rare three-hour trek across Earth’s surface starts in northern Australia
The last total solar eclipse until 2015 has begun, with the moon crossing in front of the sun in a celestial event that will ultimately send the moon’s shadow on a three-hour trek across Earth’s surface, starting in northern Australia.
Despite some clouds, the beginning of today’s total solar eclipse was clearly visible as the moon edged between the sun and Earth, appearing to take a bite out of our star as seen by thousands of observers in Cairns, Australia, where several webcasts were broadcasting the event.
The eclipse will reach totality at 3:35 p.m. EST (2035 GMT) today — shortly after dawn Wednesday local time in Australia — over the Northern Territory’s Arnhem Land region. The moon’s shadow sweeps southeast from there, crossing the Gulf of Carpentaria into the state of Queensland before heading out into the vast Pacific Ocean, where few will see it.
Greg Wood / AFP – Getty Images
More than 50,000 spectactors, along with teams of scientists, flocked to Cairns on Queensland’s northeast coast to witness the solar spectacle. NASA spokesman Josh Byerly told Space.com that there was a tiny window in which the moon’s shadow on Earth might be visible from the International Space Station today, but the outpost’s six-person crew is scheduled to be sleeping at that time. [ Photos: Total Solar Eclipse of 2012 ]
If you’re not among the lucky few along the path
If you’re not among the lucky few along the path of totality, you can still watch the eclipse online. Several organizations, including the Slooh Space Camera and Tourism Tropical North Queensland, are webcasting live views from Cairns (where cloudy conditions remain a threat).
You can watch several live webcasts of the solar eclipse at Space.com.
The total eclipse comes to an end at 6:48 p.m. EST (2348 GMT) today, with the moon’s shadow petering out 610 miles (980 kilometers) west-northwest of Santiago, Chile — about 9,000 miles (14,500 kilometers) from its starting point Down Under.
Solar eclipses occur when the moon lines up with the sun in the sky, blotting out the solar disk from a viewer’s perspective on Earth. There are three main categories: total, partial and annular (in which the outer edge of the sun shines like a ring around the moon in the sky).
The last total solar eclipse took place in July 2010, and the next one won’t occur until March 2015. However, a so-called “hybrid” eclipse — which shifts between total and annular at different points on the globe — will come to parts of the Atlantic and central Africa in November 2013.
Today’s eclipse isn’t just a boon for skywatchers. Scientists view it as a rare chance to study the sun’s thin outer atmosphere while the solar disk is blocked. Amateurs and professionals are both in for an unforgettable experience today, as long as the weather holds, experts say.
“On a scale of 1 to 10, total eclipses are a million,” NASA researcher Fred Espenak said in a statement.
Warning: If you are watching the total solar eclipse in person, be extremely careful. Never look directly at the sun, either with the naked eye or through telescopes or binoculars without the proper filters. To safely view solar eclipses, you can purchase special solar filters or No. 14 welder’s glass to wear over your eyes. Standard sunglasses will NOT provide sufficient protection.
The eclipse isn’t the only celestial treat skywatchers can look forward to this week. The annual Leonid meteor shower, which has produced some spectacular shows over the years, peaks overnight Saturday.
Slooh Space Camera
Editor’s note: If you are along the eclipse path in Australia or elsewhere and snap an amazing photo of Tuesday’s total solar eclipse that you’d like to share for a possible story or image gallery, please send images, comments and location information to Managing Editor Tariq Malik at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Solar Eclipses: An Observer’s Guide (Infographic)
- Total Solar Eclipse Photos Helps Predict Sun Cycle | Video
- Total Solar Eclipse of 2012: November’s Sun Spectacle Explained (Gallery)
* * * * * Total Solar Eclipse Hit the Twin Cities, June, 1954…..It was Spectacular!
Comment: And I would add, viewing the total eclipse of the sun that June, the morning of that day I graduated with my B/A degree in Georgraphy from the University of Minnesota, was far more overwhelming a sight than the unbelieveable beauty of the Grand Canyon of the Colorado.
There was more to the show than viewing indescribable beauty. Every minute from start to finish, the eclipse was a scene and act unto itself.
The entire horizon with downtown St. Paul far in the distance was the stage. Lighting was that of the most beautiful June morning anywhere in temperate climes.
As the moon approached its mark, the wondrous magnificent drama began.
Light began a change……..winds began…..weather stirred the silent……..sounds were changing in tune and volume…….all the earth in view came to shake visually and become overwhelmed by shadows and stirrings, inspiring , yet frightening as the wave of darkness began its victory over light. Howling dogs, whistling winds pushing past trees, chirping birds suddenly were silenced and sound disappeared.
All six of us bearing witness together on a this barren Twin Cities suburban hill, were totally absorbed and struck numb and dumb by the choreographer’s power and talents.
Trust me, an honest and devoted conservative raised by a God-fearing mother and a greatest-guy-in-the-world dad ………I have never seen a show or scenes anywhere in my life so compelling, so thrilling, and ‘uplifting’ to the almost overwhelming, as that show the moment the moon appeared to touch the Sun at first reach that most exquisite June morning..