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A ‘hybrid’ solar eclipse is about to become visible in Australia. Here’s when and where you can see it – WhatsNew2Day


On Thursday, April 20, the Ningaloo region of Western Australia will experience a total solar eclipse. Eclipse hunters from all over the world flock to the town of Exmouth hoping to experience the profound awe of standing in the moon’s shadow as it speeds past.

Only a narrow path across the earthincluding Exmouth and Barrow Island WA, eastern parts of East Timor and also parts of Papua in Indonesia will experience totality – when the Moon whole blocks the sun’s light.

Only locations along a narrow path have the chance to see the total solar eclipse.
Xavier M. Jubier

Can we see the eclipse in other parts of Australia?

In the rest of Australia we get a partial solar eclipse. Exactly how much of the sun is covered by the moon, as well as the timing of the eclipse, depends on your location. The farther away from the path of totality, the shallower the eclipse will be.

Comparing Australian capitals, Darwin will experience the deepest partial eclipse – with 85% of the Sun’s diameter hidden by the Moon. For Hobart, located on the opposite side of the country from Ningaloo, only 13% of the diameter of the sun will disappear behind the moon.

During a partial eclipse, there is nothing to notice or indicate that an eclipse could even occur. Even when 90% or more of the Sun’s diameter is obscured by the Moon (known as the eclipse magnitude), you may notice only a tiny amount of daylight dimming. What’s more, the colors and light around you might look a bit odd.

The local conditions for the solar eclipse in the Australian capitals are shown in the tables below. To find out what is happening at your location, you can use timeanddate.com
or a online google map created by French amateur astronomer Xavier Jubier (note that all times must be converted from UTC).

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Tanya Hill
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Tanya Hill

What is a ‘Hybrid’ Solar Eclipse?

Technically, this eclipse is a special type, known as a hybrid eclipse. It starts over the Indian Ocean as one annular solar eclipse, where the moon is slightly too small to completely block the sun and a ring of sunlight shines around the dark moon. This happens when the moon’s antumbral shadow hits the Earth (see diagram).

A diagram showing the location of the different types of shadow the moon casts
During an annular eclipse, the moon’s shadow is not long enough to reach Earth, and Earth is instead submerged in the shadow (not to scale diagram).
The conversation

By the time the moon’s shadow reaches the land, it will become a total solar eclipse — the moon now appears large enough to completely block the sun, and it’s the moon’s cast shadow that falls on Earth.

It’s incredible that such an eclipse happens because it means the Earth is in the right place between the drop shadow and the drop shadow. Parts of the Earth are in the cast shadow, while the curvature of the planet is enough for other places to sit slightly further away so that the cast shadow falls there.

Japan’s Himawari-8 weather satellite captured the moon’s shadow sweeping across Earth during a total solar eclipse on March 9, 2016.

Don’t forget eye safety!

Most importantly, a solar eclipse requires special precautions to observe it safely. Never look directly at the sun as this can cause serious and permanent eye damage.

You can safely observe a solar eclipse by protection of your eyes with certified eclipse glasses or looking at the sun indirectly through a pin hole camera to project a small image of the sun onto a wall, the ground, or a piece of paper.

Light from the sun shines through the holes of a colander and onto a wall, projecting many small images of the eclipsed sun onto the wall
A colander is a ready-made pinhole camera that takes many small images of the eclipsed sun.
John Heer/Flickr, CC DOOR

Just remember this is a projection technique – Do not look at the sun through any holes.

Observing the totality

For those lucky enough to be in Exmouth, the eclipse will begin at 10:04 a.m. and totality will occur at 11:30 a.m., causing an eerie twilight. For just 58 seconds, observers of the eclipse will be plunged into the moon’s shadow for an awe-inspiring experience.

Most amazingly, totality reveals a part of the sun that we don’t normally see. The sun’s magnificent corona—the outer atmosphere—stretches millions of miles into space and can be seen dancing and shimmering.

It’s also possible to see planets and bright stars during totality if you can tear your gaze away from the shimmering corona. There are currently four planets in our daytime sky and they will all be revealed: Saturn and Jupiter above the sun, with faint Mercury and bright Venus below.

simulation of the darkened sky, looking north, the planets are aligned with Saturn at its highest followed by Jupiter, the eclipse, Mercury and Venus
During totality, there is a chance to see four planets, weather permitting.
Museums Victoria/Stellarium

That brief moment of totality, when the sun is completely obscured by the moon, is the only time to safely view the eclipse directly. All too soon the moon will move on and it will be time to shield your eyes again.

Australia, prepare for more

Remarkably, this solar eclipse is the first of five total solar eclipses that will occur in Australia over the next 15 years.

In addition, many of the upcoming eclipses will see totality sweep over densely populated areas:

  • July 22, 2028 – totality will cross from the Kimberley, WA, through the Northern Territory, South West Queensland, New South Wales, and pass directly over Sydney.

  • November 25, 2030 – totality will take place in South Australia, northwestern NSW and southern QLD.

  • July 13, 2037 – totality will traverse southern WA, southern NT, western QLD and pass directly over Brisbane and the Gold Coast.

  • December 26, 2038 – totality occurs over central WA, SA and along the NSW/Victoria border.

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There will be five total solar eclipses over Australia over the next 15 years.
Basemap: Google Earth; Eclipse date: Xavier Jubier kmz files

For some Australians, it’s not necessary to travel the world to experience totality, if you get the chance to see it from your own backyard.

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