Clouds may ruin trip for eclipse fans in Australia

Nov 13, 2012 by Kristen Gelineau

Tens of thousands of tourists, scientists and amateur astronomers who traveled from around the world to see a total solar eclipse in northern Australia may be getting shortchanged by the weather.

Forecasters were predicting around dawn Wednesday, when the moon will pass between the sun and Earth and plunge a slice of Australia's northeast into darkness. Many worried that they will miss a rare chance to view the .

"There will be breaks in (the clouds), but it's just a matter of the luck of the draw whether you get a break at the right time," said Queensland state Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Andrew Mostyn. "It's a bit of bad luck."

The eclipse will cast its 150-kilometer (95-mile) wide shadow starting at dawn in Australia's Northern Territory and then cross the northeast tip of the country before swooping east across the South Pacific. No islands are in its direct path, so is the only land where there's even a chance of seeing the full eclipse, said Geoff Wyatt, an with Sydney Observatory.

A will be visible from east Indonesia, the eastern half of Australia, New Zealand, and southern parts of Chile and Argentina. Totality—the darkness that happens at the peak of the eclipse—will last just over two minutes.

Among those sweating out the forecast was U.S. astronomer Jay Pasachoff, who traveled to Australia in hopes of viewing his 56th solar eclipse. Pasachoff, an astronomy professor at Williams College in Massachusetts, and a team of about 50 scientists and students have fanned out across the region to improve the odds that at least some of them will see the eclipse. The group is planning to study the sun's corona, the glowing white ring around the sun that is visible only during an eclipse.

Despite the anxiety over the weather and the long journey to get there, Pasachoff said he wouldn't miss it.

"Just imagine you were a heart surgeon and someone actually told you you could look inside a human heart only for two minutes, and only if you went halfway around the world," he said. "You would do it."

Some Queensland hotels have been booked up for more than three years and more than 50,000 people have flooded into the region to watch the solar spectacle, said Jeff Gillies, regional director of Queensland Tourism.

Skygazers are planning to crowd beaches, boats, fields and hot air balloons to watch the event. Fitness fanatics will race in the Marathon, where the first rays of the sun re-emerging from behind the moon will serve as the starting gun. Some have already been partying for days at a weeklong eclipse festival.

Scientists will be studying how animals respond to the eclipse, with underwater cameras capturing the effects of sudden darkness on the creatures of the Great Barrier Reef.

"It's an unknown with how they'll react," Gillies said. "A little bit of flora and fauna confusion, I would imagine."

The last visible in Australia was 10 years ago, in the South Australia Outback.

Explore further: SpaceX launches supplies to space station (Update)

not rated yet
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Southern hemisphere to glimpse year's last solar eclipse

Nov 24, 2011

The tip of South Africa, Tasmania and most of New Zealand will -- weather permitting -- enjoy a partial eclipse of the Sun on Friday although the handful of hardy scientists in Antarctica will get the best view, according ...

Partial lunar eclipse visible in western skies

Jun 27, 2010

(AP) -- Skygazers got a treat Saturday when a portion of the moon crossed into the Earth's shadow during a partial lunar eclipse visible in the western United States and Canada, the Pacific and eastern Asia.

Recommended for you

Sun emits a mid-level solar flare

17 hours ago

The sun emitted a mid-level solar flare, peaking at 9:03 a.m. EDT on April 18, 2014, and NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory captured images of the event. Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful ...

Impact glass stores biodata for millions of years

19 hours ago

(Phys.org) —Bits of plant life encapsulated in molten glass by asteroid and comet impacts millions of years ago give geologists information about climate and life forms on the ancient Earth. Scientists ...

The importance of plumes

19 hours ago

The Hubble Space Telescope is famous for finding black holes. It can pick out thousands of galaxies in a patch of sky the size of a thumbprint. The most powerful space telescope ever built, the Hubble provided ...

Ceres and Vesta Converge in Virgo

22 hours ago

Don't let them pass you by. Right now and continuing through July, the biggest and brightest asteroids will be running on nearly parallel tracks in the constellation Virgo and so close together they'll easily ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Impact glass stores biodata for millions of years

(Phys.org) —Bits of plant life encapsulated in molten glass by asteroid and comet impacts millions of years ago give geologists information about climate and life forms on the ancient Earth. Scientists ...

Health care site flagged in Heartbleed review

People with accounts on the enrollment website for President Barack Obama's signature health care law are being told to change their passwords following an administration-wide review of the government's vulnerability to the ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.