Total Eclipse of the Sun - Australia November 13-14, 2012
NASA eclipse expert Fred Espenak has a rating scheme for natural wonders. “On a scale of 1 to 10,” he says, “total eclipses are a million.” Even the reef itself will be momentarily forgotten by onlookers as the Moon’s cool shadow sweeps across the beach and the ghostly tendrils of the solar corona surround the black lunar disk. But there’s more to this event than tourism. Scientists are attending, too. For researchers, the brief minutes of totality offer a window into one of the deepest mysteries of solar physics: The mystery of coronal heating. In plain language, they’d like to know why the sun’s outer atmosphere or “corona” is so hot. The surface temperature of the sun is only 6000 degrees C. Yet the corona above it is much warmer, a million degrees Celsius or even more.
To understand the physics involved, astronomers have developed instruments called coronagraphs, which block the glare of the sun to reveal the faint corona. Three spacecraft, SOHO and the twin STEREO probes, currently monitor the solar corona using these devices. But no manmade instrument can match Earth’s natural satellite. The Moon is nature’s greatest coronagraph. During an eclipse, “the moon reveals the innermost corona, which manmade coronagraphs have trouble seeing,” explains Shadia Habbal of the Institute for Astronomy in Hawaii. “That is where all the magnetic field and physical processes responsible for heating the corona are evolving most rapidly.” –NASA
Cairns Total Solar Eclipse: 10 Things Observers Need to Know
12. Science lesson review: A solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the sun and planet Earth. It would appear as though only a faint halo or corona is left of the sun when the peak of a solar eclipse (totality) is reached.
11. As the moon follows its path during a total solar eclipse, daytime is altered by a brief night time experience, i.e. a drop in temperature is felt.
10. The path of the moon is around 200 kilometres wide.
9. The best spots for this solar eclipse experience are on beaches from Cairns north to Wonga Beach (north of Port Douglas).
8. People who travel across the world to chase eclipses are called umbraphiles. Umbra is the Latin word for "shadow."
7. The next visible total solar eclipse in Australia will occur in 2028. This time, the southwest portion of Queensland will enjoy the best view.
6. Would you rather watch a live webcast streamed from Cairns? Bookmark ustream.tv/cairnseclipse2012. Broadcast will begin at 5am AEST on November 14 (Wednesday).
5. Eclipse observers are warned against looking directly into the sun. Wear eclipse glasses or use appropriate filter on your viewing device, i.e. camera or telescope.
4. Photo enthusiasts should try taking creative shots. For instance, play with the eclipsed sun's light rays with a piece of cardboard with patterned holes.
3. What shouldn't be missed when observing a solar eclipse? Baily's Beads. According to this Eclipse 2012guide, Baily's Beads show "where the sun shines through the rugged surface of the moon creating points of light on the edge of the moon's disc. These can only be seen for a few seconds before and after total darkness."
2. The full eclipse will last 2mins 4secs near Oak Beach, just south of Port Douglas.
1. The totality of the solar eclipse is expected to occur between 6:37am and 6:39am.
Post-dawn darkness is due to fall on Cairns at 6:39 a.m. AEST on Nov. 14, which translates to 3:39 p.m. ET Nov. 13. You should be able to follow the eclipse online via these webcams:
- University of North Dakota's SEMS team on Ustream.
- Panasonic Eclipse Live plans solar-powered webcast.
- Gorge Creek Orchards in Mareeba in northern Australia.
- Total Solar Eclipse from Brisbane on the Australian coast.
- Total Solar Eclipse from Oak Beach near Cairns.
- Eclipse 2012 promises a webcast that will be carried by NASA.